If you're lucky enough to live in Dallas, you will also find yourself unlucky enough to not be able to make it to every opening and every show. I missed Loris Gréaud's show, The Unplayed Notes Museum, when it first opened at the Dallas contemporary in late January.
I didn't even hear any buzz around town about it until I bumped into a friend and gallery owner who asked if I had seen it. When I told him I had not, he told he would be interested to hear what I thought about it. So, my girlfriend and I didn't waste a minute getting there.
I make it a point not to read other reviewer's reviews before seeing a show. But my friend did tell me that the astute art reviewer over at the Dallas Observer, Lauren Smart, wasn't impressed and that Gréaud was none too impressed with her review, which led to some public nastiness.
Apparently he told her she needed to get herself a man. And when the Feminist universe came to her aid, he said it was all a PR stunt. That was when I knew I really needed to see this show.
And, once I did, it all suddenly became very clear to me.
The show smacks of desperation. All I can say, is I feel sorry for Gréaud. He has given up on both art and the art audience. I felt heartbroken as I walked through the show, "What has happened to an artist's mind when this is what he is moved to create?"
Statues of mutated, life-size sheep and cattle are poised as if walking toward a "tree a life" with silver bulbs strewed on the ground below. The wooden tree grows bulbs of wood, which presumably turn to silver and fall.
Discordant guitar music plays and video of slow motion smoke rolls on with the sound of impending doom like a b horror film playing, a cross between a whooshing, a howling, a breathing a heartbeat. Think B horror movie right before things get really bad (ie Texas Chain Saw Massacre).
On the walls hang what look to be black, rumpled Hefty bags.
This is art on drugs. This is art gone terribly wrong. This is not art.
This is presumption and misunderstanding. Too many mixed metaphors smashed and piled and broken and pushed.
Some of the art is "destroyed." As I walk through the damage and my shoes kick up the rubble, I am saddened like I was for the kid in the high school talent show who raged against the machine wailing on a second hand electric guitar in all black. "Look at me. Look at me. Please, dear God, look at me."
The room is bathed in sickly yellow light and the bulbs in the light fixtures (which would be quite nice in a chic restaurant once the wiring was repaired) above the tree flicker and the sounds are what I imagine is what the apocalypse will sound like.
Here's the thing. There are pointed bits and pieces of brilliance happening.
But this is show is too much with itself.
This is not a beautiful mess. It's just a mess.
It's as if Captain Obvious laid out the show with cracked books on the floor and framed pieces on the wall that look as if they are stolen from the Da Vinci Code, old encyclopedias and schematics to explain the world as it never was.
This is art that beats you over the head so hard that you wish it could actually put your out of your misery die.
As for the "destruction" of certain parts of the show, apparently, it was all whole when installed and then actors were hired to come in and destroy it. It was supposed to be performance art. But the word was out and the effect was weak. And all that's left is a video of the attempt. That does not performance art make. That is merely the bloody afterbirth.
In a second gallery, rows upon rows of casts of hands are on poles imbedded in marble. The hands are in various gestures, many seem reminiscent of Black Power or "Heil Hilter," others are struggling hands as if caught in disaster and frozen for eternity.
A voice recording speaks the lines, "to stay up to stay down to stay absent to stay out to stay present to stay absent to do wrong to do right," over and over again ad nauseam.
Like the first gallery, this too is so overwrought. It's all overkill. The black paintings on the wall. One smashed on the floor. Some of the hands and pedestals smashed. The voice.
Just the hands on the pedestals... Gorgeous. With the destruction and the voice over... Teenage angst to the nth degree. I just want to shout, "Why do you hate me? What do hate art audiences? Why have you given up on us? I fucking get it. Why must you beat me to pulp and scrape me raw?"
And then there's the night vision porn. Sex debased, degraded, destroyed. Crafted and over designed, a video plays of two "professionals" having sex. It feels over-played, over-obvious, over-done. Like everything here.
The sound is even harsher in this vast, cold, empty cement space where at one end the porn plays and at the other are massive angel statues with goofy expressions on their faces standing sentry in a circle all missing their hands (maybe those were in the other gallery) in the center of which is a ball of light and smashed faces and dead butterflies and the faces on the ground are equally happy and content. One angel has been pushed over.
This show demands that we ask just how dumb does Loris Gréaud think we are?
Part of me wants to apologize. "Forgive the art-going public, for clearly we have sinned if you feel the need to treat us this way." But part of my just wants to lick my now open wounds from the art flogging I have just received, leaving me to wonder. "Is this what we have driven artists to?"
All I know is this man is tortured and now so am I.
Through March 21 at the dallas contemporary.
***In the name of full disclosure, I once wrote for the Dallas Observer. My last story there was in 2011.