Lyons Matrix Gallery
through November 9
If you've only seen Bob "Daddy-O" Wade's well-known work -- giant dancing frogs, huge screaming iguanas -- you might be surprised to learn that he was formally trained to paint in the traditional Renaissance style. But one look at his work in this collection and you'll be able to see Wade's education at work. The paintings are clearly the work of an eccentric artist, but it takes a well-trained eccentric artist to create a blown-up, hand-painted photo of smiling cowgirls from the Thirties.
For these works, Wade has taken historic black-and-white photos and images from nostalgic postcards, enlarged and projected them onto linen fabric, then painted them with an airbrush. He somehow maintains an excellent resolution with the photos, even when enlarged 200 percent. The results are bigger-than-life hula girls, cowgirls, cowboys, and matadors highlighted with subtle, translucent hues. Wade is like the Ted Turner of art, putting a colorful twist on cool old images.
As with most of Wade's work, these pieces carry a Tex-Mex theme, often on a Texas-sized scale. At the gallery's entrance, an enormous painting of two stoic female bullfighters is flanked by two real bull heads, all of it backed by bright red cloth. It may not appeal to animal rights activists and small children, but the visual impact is compelling.
Paintings and photos by another Texas native, Bert L. Long, Jr., are also on display. His works are also replete with Western themes, but in a much different style from Wade's. His version of a bull -- even more gruesome than the mounts at the entrance -- is a photo of a skinned bull's head. It's a work that caught me off guard, that repulsed me yet hypnotized me. Again, a compelling visual impact.
It's interesting how differently these artists interpret very similar ideas. Though a great show for aficionados of Western imagery, animal rights activists may be best left at home.
Yard Dog Folk Art
Artists often take themselves too seriously -- okay, writers do, too -- and while artists' brooding sensitivity can be part of their charm, it's nice to discover a few who are free of self-importance, who just make art because they like to: Like the artists in this show.
Yard Dog is celebrating its first anniversary as a gallery devoted to American folk art, and they're marking the milestone with an exhibition of recent acquisitions by artists including Jim Sudduth, Annie Tolliver, and Mose Tolliver (a living legend in folk art). They are all self-taught, and most were raised, and still live, in poverty. Not exactly the kind of atmosphere conducive to art school. Yet their natural ability to convey a thought or a message with a paintbrush surfaced and they have made the art that they love. They now have collectors and galleries specializing in their un-jaded style.
"We love the miracle of these wonderful paintings," said Yard Dog co-owner Randy Franklin. "[The artists' backgrounds] breed a sort of isolation that's necessary for this total lack of sophistication. They have a curious lack of ambition and a curious apathy toward money. It's very humbling."
The collection is vibrant and full of dizzying colors, with subjects ranging from musicians (Willie Nelson seems to be a favorite) to city streets. These vivid, two-dimensional works possess a sweet, childlike quality, much like the artists. These works might compel you to think "I could do this." But the question is: could you, and would you? -- Cari Marshall
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