Gallery Night is Saturday. As usual, the offerings are too numerous to be seen in the hours after dark, so beginning this afternoon, the Fort Worth Art Dealers Association will be throwing open the doors for the twice-a-year frenzy of gallery-hopping.
The two most popular venues, Artspace111, on 111 Hampton St. in Fort Worth, and the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, 1300 Gendy St., have excellent shows; brand 10 art space, 3418 W. Seventh St., and its new sister gallery, and X art space, 3511 Locke Ave., are presenting a single themed exhibit, and The Gallery at UTA, 502 S. Cooper St., has a show that should be mandatory for anyone interested in contemporary art.
Any of these venues would be a good place to begin the pilgrimage. Maps are available at all locations to plot your next destination.
Daniel Blagg is the center of attention at Artspace111 with a collection of exquisite paintings of derelict places. The seamy side of town, where the sidewalks end and weeds and gravel begin, has always been his location of choice. Here, monumental modernist boomerangs and giant bowling pins are the archeological remains of former commerce. The signs are chipped and dented, their light bulbs gone and the neon escaped.
Blagg likes windows of plywood and roofs made of blue plastic tarps. He looks at them as a "state of limbo ... very ordinary and very American." Most of us don't even see them. They are the visual blight that separates the urban from the pastoral, and indeed they could, in a few years' time, be reclaimed by either side, the weeds or urban renewal. In Blagg's paintings, nature seems to be winning.
A few years ago, Blagg found a Las Vegas junkyard, and the discovery was kismet. His paintings of old casino signage relegated to the desert landfill are a perfect metaphor for the current economic landscape. The silver slipper, a giant white pump originally scaled in white lightbulbs, is now denuded of sparkle, covered in rust, but still upright and majestic surround by Aladdin's lamp and gold banners in the graveyard of beacons. These paintings are an American landscape of the anti-sublime. Blagg mines the broken dreams of delusional get-rich-quick schemes, and the results are as beautiful as they are ironic.
There are other artists on exhibit at Artspace111 -- the usual talented crew plus a few newcomers, such as Michelle Brandley, who has found her after-school home. When the wall space gave out, director Margery Grella took the excess over to the Fort Worth Community Arts Center and commandeered a gallery there.
Ron Watson's exhibit is in the invitational galleries (information about his shows on 1D) at the FWCAC. Plus, the fundraising show "Preservation is the Art of the City" is on the ground level of the center. This is the best of the local art fundraisers in that the artists get the majority of the sales price, with the remainder going to Historic Fort Worth programs. The show is always well-stocked by some of the best local artists and with works that cover a broad price range, with many to entice new collectors.
This year's featured artist is Billy Hassell, who has made a career painting brilliant avian Edens.
A group show at brand 10 art space and the work of Nina Schwanse at and X are thematically driven by disguise and costume.
The Gallery at UTA has mounted "The State of Drawing" with a truly spectacular group of artists who rely on the oldest means of artistic expression. This is a rare exhibit, and one that should not be missed, as drawing shows are woefully scarce.
These are all good starting points for the journey into art. Pick one and venture forth; it the best free entertainment in town.
For a complete list of participating venues, visit www.fwada.org.
Gaile Robinson is the Star-Telegram art and design critic, 817-390-7113