Dallas, Morning News, Arts Day, March 3, 2004, page 14.




Space Explorers

Trio of artist dream large for final edition of Belo Sculpture Series

It’s an occupational disease for sculptors who, faced with an empty room, can’t wait to fill it. Three prominent Texans, Martin Delabano of Dallas, Annette Lawrence of Denton and Jesus Moroles of Rockport, take advantage of the opportunity in a spirited McKinney Avenue Contemporary show titled “Essential Space.”

The exhibition is part of the Belo Foundation Sculpture Series, a three year project now in its final edition. The effort has been well invested, as a total of nine artists have pushed to meet the challenge of creating large-scale works designed for specific spaces. Material this year range from humble to elegant, concepts whimsical to poetic.

Ms. Lawrence transforms a whited cube into a metaphysical wonderland using nothing more than cotton string, brown paper, packing tape and Elmer’s glue. Mr. Delabano squeezes a 10-foot tall caricature of the family dog Spike into a tight space, securing him to the wall with a chunky chain. Mr. Molroles crams more than a dozen figurative works cared from granite, a hard and unforgiving stone, into one long gallery, adding a bronze abstraction and latex glove self -portrait from the mid-1970s fro context. Based on comic relief and sheer rule of wit, Mr. Delabano takes the prize. SPIKE!, a gawky creature with a long, red tongue, generously proportioned genitals and pointy ears, appears to be smiling at the observer, oblivious to either his light or the giant bone at his feet.

His mixed heritage is echoed in the hodgepodge of wood and scrap metal used to make him. An expressive charcoal drawing that served as a study points to Mr. Delabano’s considerable talents as a draftsman.

SPIKE! is intended to make us laugh and giggle, says Mr. Delabano, who did his share of biting social commentary in his younger days.

“Building SPIKE! on this scale was pure foolishness,” he admits. “Thankfully, my father once told me that you’ve got to allow for the fool in everyone.” The remark pays homage to the late Barney Delabano, a noted painter and longtime Dallas Museum of Art exhibition designer.

Ms. Lawrence, a University of North Texas professor wo puts mathematical systems to poetic use. , invites visitors to walk under her multidimensional Quarter, which emits ever-shifting patterns of light and shadow. It’s all about the rhythm of life and the transient nature of our existence. At the same time, Ms. Lawrence makes viewers keenly aware of how their own bodies affect the space as they pass beneath an ephemeral canopy made by adhering diagonal layers of string to the wall.

Achieving these effects within the restrictive linear format Ms. Lawrenecne imposes on herself is no small feat. And here, as in her recent show at Dunn and Brown Contemporary, she imbues the work with lyrical overtones by allowing the rows of string to suggest bars of music and the knots notes.

Known for this prolific output, Mr. Moroles has no fewer than five shows in Dallas this season. While much of his work is abstract, everything here relates to the figure. Most pieces are granite, but he selects a variety of shades, from soft pinks to green and black.

Working with assistants in his Rockport studio, Mr. Morles embeds wavy patterns into some stone and polishes others to a glossy finish. To distinguish the two sides of a giant hand symbolic of the artist at work, he chiseled creases into the palm and smoothed fingernails into the front.

Manipulating the stone has become almost second nature at this point.

“I always say we don’t carve granite, we tear it, ” he says in the brochure that accompanies his concurrent show at the Latino ‘Cultural Center. “It’s like you take paper and tear it and you have that rough deckle edge, and the reason people like that rough edge is because it shows the fiber inside the paper.”

Three tall, silhouetted female figures titled Tres Mujeres, (three Ladies) serve as the centerpiece, and a granite mask akin to a pre-Columbian object alludes to the artist’s heritage. Benches with curved seats are strategically spotted around the room. A digitally altered photograph of Mr. Moroles standing next to Ming’s Tomb in China introduces a note of irony.

At the conclusion of this year’s show, the Belo Foundation will produce an illustrated catalog on all three exhibitions. It will include essays by Sue Graze, executive director of Arthouse at the Jones Center in Austin; Charles Dee Mitchell, an independent Dallas art critic and contributor to the Dallas Morning News; and Phillip Collin, chief curator at the African American Museum in Fair Park.