News and Features

African Masks, African Dance at the DMA

Goat mask with feather cape, from Cameroon.

Masks touch all levels of cultural life in Africa. They have been used to celebrate the passing of great men, to send the spirits of the dead into the next world, to celebrate feminine beauty or power, to implore the spirits, to keep order and maintain discipline.  Sunday,  you can get a sense of the variety and artistry behind these masks when  The Dallas Museum of Art opens “African Masks: The Art of Disguise.”

Roslyn Adele Walker, a senior curator at the museum and author of the DMA’s book The Arts of Africa, led a tour of the exhibition yesterday.

The pieces are made from wood, metal, cloth, beads, beeswax, fibers, even shotgun shells. Mask-making is still a vibrant art. The exhibition includes a butterfly mask by Yacouba Bonde of Burkina Faso, a contemporary choreographer and sculptor.  And it’s accompanied by a video of Bonde dancing. These contextual videos of the masks in use during ceremonies are scattered throughout the exhibition. But masks are also in use here in Dallas. Tonight, at Late Night at the DMA, The Bafoot Group from Camaroon will take the Late Night Main Stage for a performance and procession through the museum concourse.

Some more masks from the exhibit, and below that,  video from Roslyn talking to Jerome about the museum’s African Art Collection on Think, taped earlier this year.

Look for the shotgun shells at the top of this mask.

This masquerade is used to pay tribute to the Great Mother in Guinea

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Friday Morning Roundup

CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST: The Dallas Theater Center is trying to meet the kids where they’re at – online. In order to cast the children in its production of A Christmas Carol, the DTC is asking the kiddos to audition via an online video. So what does that involve? DTC company member Lee Trull fills you in on the details in the above video. Even if you’re not a kid, be sure to watch to see Lee’s audition monologue and song. And while you’re at it, head out to Fort Worth to catch Lee in Stage West’s The 39 Steps.

GROUPS OF GROUPS IN FORT WORTH: We hear about bands breaking up all the time around here. But it seems like more often than not, the members of those bands get together in different combinations to form new bands. That’s the way fwweekly.com sees it, anyway, as this week’s Hearsay column looks at the many, many bands formed from the ashes of other local groups.

QUOTABLE: “We’re playing places where people can see and touch us. They can smell my breath. Smell my body odor.  It’s a more visceral experience.”

– Billy Idol, in an interview with quickdfw.com, about the venues he’s booked on his current tour. It comes to the Palladium Ballroom on Tuesday.

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Programming Alert: Natalie Merchant on KXT 91.7 FM

Just a quick heads up to tune your radios to KXT 91.7 FM at 4 p.m. today to hear Natalie Merchant’s in-studio performance. Just a few minutes ago, Natalie and her band were playing a few cuts from her latest album, Leave Your Sleep. On the album, she’s collected American and British poems and set them to music.

I was able to slip into the control room while the tape was rolling, and I was reminded of what a distinctive, soothing voice she has. Some of the poems she is interpreting on the album are geared toward children, and the combination of that voice and those words is a nice fit.

“Adventures of Isabel,” by Ogden Nash, was turned into Cajun jamboree. And “If No One Ever Marries Me,” by Laurence Alma-Tadema, had a few of those listening on the verge of wiping away a tear. (Not me, of course, but people with the actual ability to cry.)

Merchant is in town to play the Winspear Opera House tonight. Tickets are still available if you like what you hear at 4.

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Afternoon Delight: The Art of the Yo-Yo

Afternoon Delight is a daily diversion for when you’re back from lunch but not quite ready to get back to work. Check back tomorrow at 1 p.m. for another installment.

Did you know that there is a world yo-yo championship? Neither did we. But we’re interested now after watching this guy turn the toy into a piece of performance art. Kinda tempers our excitement at finally being able to walk the dog.

(h/t Buzzfeed)

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Q&A: Celia Alvarez Muñoz

Guest Blogger Tina Aguilar teaches Humanities and Cultural Studies at Brookhaven College School of the Arts.

Venturing out into the art landscape brings welcome surprises and conversations. For this week, I spoke with Celia Alvarez Muñoz about her exhibition, “A Toda Madre y Padre!: Manchas y Marcas” at the Latino Cultural Center and the new book Celia Alvarez Muñoz, by Dr. Roberto Tejada, which situates her work and place in art history. Alvarez Muñoz is the current artist honored in the annual Maestros Tejanos series, which recognizes the talent of Texas Latino artists and whose imprints continue to foster new talent. In addition to this exhibit, her work Orientaciones, part of the City of Dallas Public Art Collection, holds a strong heartbeat and is nestled within the architecture, a building designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta.

Tina Aguilar: Immediately, I recognize the quince, so for me, quinceañeras comes to mind. Can you talk a little bit about this particular image?

Celia Alvarez Muñoz: This was a celebration for a press in Austin, Coronado Studio, that celebrated its 15th anniversary. And so when I was invited to participate, I said, “What would I want to do?” You know, there’s so much and it’s so rich, but you want to nail it into one word that could say a bunch. So I thought about it and, the more I thought about it, the more I really was inclined to celebrate the body of work that the studio has done. So I chose to do a body with indelible markings, because I think Coronado Studio has made a mark in Austin and in the nation, really, and so that’s my use of the tattoo. I wanted to do a tiara, and I started collecting images of tiaras, but soon it was a little too derivative, and it just became more interesting thinking about the body. So, the word quince, and the vine does look like a tiara. I went to the real obvious and classic tattoo imagery.

T.A.: So why one word?

C.A.M.: Quince, you say it all. Quince is 15.

T.A.: Language is a very big part of your work.

C.A.M.: Very much, yes, yes. The fact that there is language is something that is pretty much a constant in the work. And of course, it’s in Spanish and “15” is too big for a tat and this one had more punch to it. Quince is nicely balanced, short and sweet, and too the point.

T.A.: And you even have the designs on the top of the letters. These areas also mirror the scroll.

C.A.M.: Yeah, I just wanted to be a little more complex than just the dark ink against the skin. It makes it more like an unfolding. These layers that, you know, that tats are about. You want to say it all, you know, once you start working, you kind of go greedy and then you peel back and peel back because you want to include a bunch of stuff. Then you pull back and pull back and the work becomes what it wants to be.

Muerte

C.A.M.: I had been thinking about expanding on the notion of tattoos, and it’s a nice wide topic. And so when I was invited to the Latino Cultural Center for this exhibition, I thought about the location of the center, and I’m always putting a lasso around several things – the fact that I think the Latino Cultural Center is making its mark here in the community, just like its neighbor Deep Ellum. In Deep Ellum, when it’s booming, it has lots of tattoo shops, and so that connection was one that I chose, too. That print was perfect for this wall. But when I thought about the show, I wanted to go back to my very first love, which was drawing. I had never done a drawing show, so this is my first. And when was this going to be done? In May, and May is Mother’s Day month, and so I kind of looped another – threw another hook in that direction – and went to the expression “A Toda Madre!” which means “Far Out!” in Spanish and it’s used more on this side of the border. In Mexico, it’s “Está Padre!” when it’s the male gender, so it’s “Far Out” in both countries. And since this is the Latino Cultural Center, Manchas y Marcas goes back to the tats, because they are marks and stains. But I think that the work, especially the murals, too, and the narrative takes you to the notion of questioning. I’m at the point in my life when you’re examining: what stays or what do you shed, what you want to shed, what you want to keep. And some of those marks, when are they stains or, if it’s a stain, when does it develop into a mark? So that dance took place. Tats are marks, and they are stains, especially as you progress in life.

T.A.: What about memory?

C.A.M.: Not so much memory, but taking into consideration your time, present, in relation to maybe what you project further on. Yep, I think you can’t have the present without the past. That’s what the narrative piece is about; the fact that the use of the word “mother” is there. Again, you know, and it’s my father, the Abüelo, the male connection, and back to the title of the exhibition. Being that it was close to Mother’s Day, again, another hook to the word “mother” and the expansion of the word, which is a very loaded word. You can go from “mother” to “mutha.”

T.A. Tell me about how you work and about going back to drawing.

C.A.M.: I like to totally submerge myself, and I build up momentum and isolate myself. I give myself that luxury, and with this project I did. It’s a lot of research going back and forth between things. Music is another part. Sometimes I pick a certain piece or album, and I react to that. And if it’s conducive to the work, I might play the same CD over and over because it speaks to me. I’ll listen to it trance-like and then get very familiar with it. I think about how they chose the first song, the second, how it is in the middle, and all the way to the end, basically reading it. A fascinating one is Dengue Fever, as I was working on Quince, with a Cambodian singer, and it has a lot of 60s influences. For the rest of the drawings, I loved figure drawing and the human body is so complex. I don’t consider myself a colorist. I am a value person, sepia and monochromatic. I believe less is more, and that’s why line is gorgeous to me.

Mama (left) and Mamacita

T.A.: In the show, there are also images of a mother and child and another female figure, perhaps pregnant, perhaps not, very voluptuous. How does the body work into this show?

C.A.M.: I’m running with the word “mother,” and so I am giving you several meanings to “mother.” How about starting with Mamacita over here, which is obviously not a pregnant girl – she’s young, she’s beautiful and there are no blacks. I didn’t use blacks; it’s all shades of grey, because it’s young, because it’s there, and the word, the title of that is Mamacita, which is a complimentary, floral expression … Then I give you Mami, which is Spanish for mother. Perhaps, like you say, it is elusive. I went more abstract to abstraction in that one, and the emphasis … is on the hand because I think things change dramatically for women once they step into pregnancy. It’s in their hands now, so that’s the emphasis there on the hands. And then you have Mama, which can be mother, but it also means to suckle. And the arms, the title of that piece is Madres, plural, and what I thought, actually, these were the first in the series. It is a Shiva … these go through a passage of innocence, life, compassion, and that’s supposed to be death, as far as closure to things, and then a resurgence, the fact that there is innocence, that there’s evil, the good, the evil. But then there’s areas where there’s transformation.

Meanwhile, during the production, my dad died, and so I wanted to celebrate him, being that the exhibition was going to be running May, June, July and August. There’s Father’s Day that comes in, so I said, “Let’s go ahead and bring him in.” I have included him in several, but in this one, this one was very special. It’s an existing work, and the fact that we really smoked the peace pipe when I invited him to participate. It’s very meaningful … the train that he re-created (right) is also part of the exhibition. I had never shown the train. It had always been the photomurals. These two murals were done for an exhibition about borders for the San Diego Museum of Art. I’m from Texas and I was invited to California, so I wanted to connect the two and elucidate the migratory veins, you know, that matter and weave in with history.

T.A.: Can you talk about the book project? This is the second signing you’ve had at the center. Why the book? This is a project that you have been working on for a while.

C.A.M.: It was just printed last August. My writer [Roberto Tejada] has been assigned to our city’s Southern Methodist University institution, and he will be starting a new position. … This is a UCLA project. It is a series of books on different artists, and I am the third one in the series. … It’s not a catalogue type of book. He really historicized it. He performed as a writer, and he placed the work within this grander map and he placed the history, my history, with that of Texas and Mexico and the United States. Then he contextualized the work, too, within the art world and he made some real good connections … because I was influenced by all these different movements and they have fed my process, and I think Roberto was very good at being able to grasp that and give it its credit.

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Thursday Morning Roundup

STORIES BEHIND STORIES: On Aug. 27, KERA (Ch. 13.2) will broadcast Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio. The documentary looks at a program founded by the architect in which college students design houses for the poor using salvaged and donated materials. Fort Worth native Jeff Fraley helped produce the film, and he tells dfw.com about how he got involved after its director showed up in his office with more than 100 hours of footage ready to be cut into a film.

MUSIC BITS: Bridges & Blinking Lights guitarist Mark Montoya explains how his band could break up just months after releasing a new album – one that Paul Slavens broke down on Tracy by Track no less! (DC 9 at Night) … Natalie Merchant talks about spending seven years making an album ahead of her stop at the Winspear Opera House tonight. (dfw.com) … NPR has asked every female musician it could find about what it’s like to be a woman in the music biz these days. (npr.org)

CLOSE TO HOME: On Friday, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas will open Blue Moon Dancing. The play centers on regulars at a West Texas dance hall and is written by Ed Graczyk, who also wrote Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, which is set in the same town. So you might be surprised to know that Gracyk only lived in the state a couple of years before returning to his native Ohio. “It’s fascinating that this man is so utterly enthused with the few years he lived in Midland,” CTD artistic director Sue Loncar tells dallasnews.com. “He gets these people and he really likes these people.”

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New Details on the Perot Museum, Plus Video

New renderings of the Perot Museum of Nature & Science were unveiled today. The museum, being built along the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, will feature an acre of  rolling Texas landscape around it as well as sustainable systems, including a rain-catch and solar water heater (for LEED “green” certification). One notable element for the future: The entire building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne, can be doubled. If need be, there’s enough room on the 4.7 acre site to create a mirror image of the cube-like construction.

When it’s completed in 2013,  the Perot will join the nearby Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theatre as the latest  eye-catcher for downtown Dallas. Although it’s essentially a squat cube, the museum will still stand out for its angled support columns that seemingly lift up parts of the cube like a skirt, the signature glassed-in escalator, running diagonally up the outside of one wall, and its semi-corrugated surface. (Think of it as sort of a horizontal version of the cube-ish, corrugated Wyly, which has an exterior elevator). In combination with the field of Texas flora along the building’s base, the lower, furrowed surface of the Perot will evoke the limestone layers in a canyon wall or along a dry creek bed.

That ‘natural’ element will be repeated throughout — with the organic curves of the landscaping in contrast to the blocky building, the windows and skylights like giant slashes in the building’s surface permitting sunshine to enter (a rarity in most museums) and several of the themed exhibitions inside, including ‘Earth Systems,’ ‘Life Systems,’ the paleontology hall (“Life Then and Now”) and so on. There will be 10 exhibit halls along with an auditorium and public cafe.

Perot Museum officials also announced the Final 50, a campaign to raise the last $50 million for the $185 million project. A community open house will be held Aug. 28 from 1-3 p.m. at the Museum’s construction site. And the Perot has set up a webcam so people may track its progress.

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What's The Big Deal? Art&Seek's New e-Newsletter

Today’s the first day to subscribe to the new Art&Seek e-newsletter.

The first newsletter hits in-boxes next Wednesday. It’ll feature the best Art&Seek radio, TV and blog stories from the previous week. It’ll highlight cool events coming up, so you can plan. AND it’ll introduce The Big Deal. Every week, we’re giving away opportunities to get up close and personal with North Texas arts and culture. Season subscriptions to theaters and dance. Museum memberships and catalogs. Backstage tours. Concert tickets. Whoo! We’ve got some goodies you won’t want to miss.

Details about The Big Deal will be available every Wednesday in the newsletter and right here on the Art&Seek blog.  You will be able to enter the weekly drawing from the blog. But you MUST be a newsletter subscriber to win.  So subscribe now. Click here to do it. And keep reading for a look at what you can expect each week:

Read More »

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Afternoon Delight: Marcel the Shell

MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON from Dean Fleischer-Camp on Vimeo.

Afternoon Delight is a daily diversion for when you’re back from lunch but not quite ready to get back to work. Check back tomorrow at 1 p.m. for another installment.

Why is it that small almost always equals cute? Ponder that question as you are introduced to Marcel the Shell.

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The Program Offers Free Screening of New Film

Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is a dance lecturer at the University of Texas Arlington. She also serves as assistant director of UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble.

If you haven’t yet caught any of the offerings of The Program, be sure to check out the screening of the film Double Take tonight at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.

The Program is the latest installment of the biennial video and new media art exhibitions sponsored by the Video Association of Dallas and Conduit Gallery. The Program opened on July 22 with the premiere showing of Brent Green’s feature film Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then. (Click here to read a review.)

Tonight is the area premiere of Double Take. It has been playing at museums and festivals all over Europe and was recently selected by the Sundance Film Festival.

In Double Take, acclaimed director Johan Grimonprez casts Alfred Hitchcock as a paranoid history professor, unwittingly caught up in a double take on the Cold War period. The master says all of the wrong things at all the wrong times while politicians on both sides desperately clamor to say the right things, live on TV. Written by bestselling novelist Tom McCarthy (Remainder and Tintin and the Secret of Literature), the plot mirrors his own personal paranoia with the political intrigue in which Hitchcock and his elusive double increasingly obsess over the perfect murder – of each other! Subverting an array of TV footage, Grimonprez traces culture’s relentless assault on the home.

With echoes of political satires like Dr. Strangelove, Wag The Dog, and In The Loop, Double Take targets the global rise of “fear-as-a-commodity.” What role should the media play in politics? That is a question that has been asked since the Cold War and will continue to be asked as the rise of online social networking, YouTube channels and the openness of TV news channels grows.

Best part of this screening? It’s free! Get over the Wednesday hump, and get to the movies!

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