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Arts & Power

From the well-known players to the brand-new tastemakers, we took a look at dallas’ in-the-know art world. Here, the insiders. the neighborhood hot spots. the beloved art institutions. the cool new kids on the block. The individuals elevating local art to exciting new heights. lookout dallas, here come your arts-scene headliners.

And Now, curator James Cope’s project space, is something new under the Dallas sun.


Oliver Francis Gallery pushes art to the edge.
Last year, local oracles named Oliver Francis Gallery Best Art Space and Best Art Gallery—no mean feat in this market. Its owner and curator, Kevin Rubén Jacobs, runs the place as a trending oasis of edge. Open since July 2011, the gallery boasts a roster of 16 mainly local artists. Jacobs characterizes his niche as “demonstrative. Abrasive. Catalytic. No Rulez [sic]. … we want freedom as artists and a dedicated space to experiment.” His grungy alternative space has quickly established itself as a free-art zone where flexing is job No. one.

“I’d say that people love the charming and inviting character of the space, and find that the exhibitions are deviously sincere and unapologetic, [as well as] completely unique to Dallas’ art landscape,” Jacobs adds. “I am invested in experimentation. I want more of it. And I want it to hit hard. I love art that I don’t understand completely, and I have an opportunity to champion and extend into the world things that are sometimes meaningless, absurd and obscure.” In this spirit, OFG is hosting installation art by Dallas Biennial co-founder Michael Mazurek in a self-titled show—his second solo exhibition at the gallery—this month.

Emmanuel Villaume triumphs in his music-director debut with the Dallas Opera.
The Dallas arts scene has many jewels in its crown, but make room for more. The latest gem is the Dallas Opera’s new music director, the recently arrived Maestro Emmanuel Villaume. In a musical coup reminiscent of the Jaap van Zweden mania that swept the city several seasons ago, Villaume’s international bona-fide, luminous reputation and brilliant musicality promise to elevate Dallas Opera to the upper echelons of artistry. Villaume made his Dallas Opera debut as musical director in October with Carmen—a dazzling production that had both critics and audiences raving.

Born in Strasbourg, France, in 1964, Villaume is degreed in musicology, literature and philosophy—a potent cocktail of disciplines for the opera. Now living in Dallas and Paris, the maestro’s upcoming calendar finds him conducting in Venice, Bratislava, London, New York, Rome and beyond. As for Carmen? “When people ask me to conduct this piece, I go, ‘Oh, Carmen again.’ But when I open the score, I’m fascinated all over again. There is always a new door you can open to a room you didn’t know existed; it’s a door that makes everything sound different and new, every single time. Carmen is an absolute masterpiece.” Encore!

Two For the Show
For Ro2 Art’s Susan Roth Romans and Jordan Roth, a passion for art is in the genes.
Downtown, uptown and occasionally all around town, award-winning Ro2 Art is one of the city’s best go-to galleries for taking in the pulse of North Texas art. A CADD member gallery, Ro2 Art’s ambitious programming lineup of 40-plus artists and satellite sensibilities demonstrate a tireless zeal to bring art and viewer together—one way or another. Making up the Ro2 namesake are partners Susan Roth Romans and her son Jordan Roth—she’s worked in the gallery world since he was a kid; he grew up with a DNA-bred appreciation for art, artists and the creative process. Together, Susan and Jordan are a seemingly effortless team, sharing similar aesthetics. And while they tend to agree wholeheartedly on an artist’s merits, when it comes to hanging an exhibition, Susan’s expertise typically prevails.

In addition to its downtown location in the Kirby building, Ro2 Art has, since the summer of 2011, enjoyed an uptown presence, exhibiting at the Magnolia Theatre in the West Village. Over the years, Ro2 Art has partnered with the town of Addison, The McKinney Avenue Contemporary and Downtown Dallas, Inc., to present exhibitions in a variety of satellite situations. This month, look for the Objectified group exhibition downtown, and Dallas artist Camilla Cowan’s New Works at the Magnolia.

Red Arrow Contemporary’s Stafford sisters take aim with a roster-free gallery.
“You never know what to expect with us,” says Elissa Stafford, musing over the young history of almost 2-year-old Red Arrow Contemporary. The brainchild of Ed Stafford and his daughters, Elissa and Erin—all artists—the Dragon Street gallery has shown work by the likes of Shepard Fairey, Banksy, Vernon Fisher, Richard Duardo and 2013 Hunting Art Prize-winner Marshall Harris, and yet remains conspicuously without a roster. “We always want to keep things very fresh and new, and there are so many artists out there that to commit yourself and continue to show them year after year might not be as much fun,” explains Elissa. Erin agrees that although not having “go-to artists” is certainly more challenging, “we wouldn’t have it any other way.” This month Red Arrow mounts its first-ever sculpture exhibition, Fresh Dozen, featuring the works of Texas Sculpture Group artists—among them, Ken Little, Susan Plum, Tommy Gregory and Brooke Gassiot. Meanwhile, the sisters Stafford hope to turn Red Arrow into nonprofit curatorial residency space. Sounds right on target.

Oral Fixation finds a new home at the Winspear’s Hamon Hall.
Nicole Stewart’s live storytelling series, Oral Fixation, is the talk of the town. After two seasons at the MAC, the series migrates to Hamon Hall at the Winspear Opera House for its third. Its beauty, however, remains in place, with seven Dallasites still telling true personal stories based on a central theme in a one-hour stage performance. Not surprisingly, Stewart herself has quite a story. With a background in acting, she reached a crossroads a few years back. Living in L.A., and suddenly without an agent, Stewart attended a storytelling performance in Santa Monica, and something clicked. Soon, she was participating.

“It was just an amazing experience to go through,” Stewart recalls. “I wrote about my grandmother’s death, and the writing alone was awesome.” Intrigued by the combination of writing a narrative she could perform onstage—not as a character, but as herself—Stewart, when back in Dallas, debuted Oral Fixation at the MAC in December 2011 to immediate acclaim. “There’s something raw and primal in the act of authentically sharing the truth of your life experience,” she says. Look for Oral Fixation’s next installment, “When in Rome,” Dec. 16.

James Cope curates a new project space in Dallas.
Area art cognoscenti may already know Englishman-turned-Dallasite/New Yorker James Cope from his six years as curator at the Goss-Michael Foundation—a stint he followed with a season as director of sales at New York’s Marlborough Chelsea gallery. He took a tentative trip back to Dallas with November’s film-and-video exhibition, Video Days, featuring world-renowned filmmakers Spike Jonze and Larry Clark, at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts’ Pollock Gallery. But next month he comes back to Big D in a big way, with the opening of his own project space, And Now. “Since I’m a curator, for me it’s about working with artists,” Cope explains. “And Now isn’t a gallery—it’s more of a space that I invite artists to do projects in.” This January, Cope’s inaugural exhibition for And Now is 75215. Named for the ZIP code of the Cedars neighborhood where he’s located, the group show, featuring young New York artists, will run into April.

With a living area in the back of And Now, the space may also function as something of a residency. “A lot of galleries now are becoming so big that they’re acting like megastore businesses,” Cope says. “I don’t want to lose the connection between the art and the artist and the collectors. I just want to scale it back to the true essence of what it means for me to be a curator.”

PDNB continues to challenge and surprise, 18 years into its run.
Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery is a Design-District oasis—a hushed atmosphere of wonder seems to infuse the space, even when the gallery walls are bedecked with challenging, disquieting images. Magically, PDNB just works. Opened in Uptown in 1995, owners Burt and Missy Finger relocated the gallery to Dragon Street in 2006, continuing their program of exhibiting 20th and 21st century photographic masterpieces. William Eggleston, Keith Carter, Jock Sturges, Misty Keasler and Bunny Yeager are just a handful of the artists whose work they’ve shown, and their themed group exhibitions are consistently intriguing.
Says Missy, “We do some fun things and we do some educational things, but not all of them are monetarily successful shows—for instance Scene of the Crime, a show we did years ago.” While that display featured crime scenes by Weegee, as well as mug shots and mob photos, and the proceedings fenced in with police tape; yet another installation dealt with eating disorders, with the space mocked up as a living room, hosting thematically related photos quietly hidden throughout. “It was a really strong show; one we were really proud of, and it was very emotional,” adds Missy. As PDNB continues to raise the aesthetic bar, expect the unexpected.

Kettle Art is back in Deep Ellum—and has a new outpost at the Sixth Floor Museum.
“Run by artists, for artists, on a purely volunteer basis,” Kettle Art embodies the do-it-yourself ethos that characterizes the Deep Ellum arts renaissance. Since artist Frank Campagna co-founded the gallery space along with Kirk Hopper back in 2005, Kettle’s been synonymous with its neighborhood. So when the gallery had to leave its old Elm Street digs last May, it came as no surprise when Campagna’s neighbors helped fund its rebirth. “They were involved in every which way possible,” Campagna says. “They didn’t want me to leave. I knew I had to shut down the old space, so it was just a matter of how to manipulate this into a positive situation instead of [a] negative one.”

Kettle Art’s new location, one block over on Main Street, is a serious upgrade—two-and-a-half times the size of “classic Kettle,” with its inaugural group exhibition Phoenix having risen on Sept. 19. More recent is Kettle’s new presence at the Sixth Floor Museum Store + Café. There, Annex/Kettle Art is a corner-marketplace installation selling works by gallery-affiliated artists, while Kettle Art’s ninth annual Holiday Presence group show is this month.