DMA Insight

Concentrations: Exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Art

Concentrations was launched in 1981 by Curator of Contemporary Art Sue Graze as a series of five exhibitions to "explore the work of significant artists, working both in the Southwest and in other regions in the country. Replacing juried competitions traditionally held at the Museum [the annual Texas Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture], these shows will present the depth and range of an individual's work, thus serving as an index to recent developments in contemporary art."[1] This series succeeded Projects, initiated in 1975 by the first Dallas Museum of Fine Arts Curator of Contemporary Art, Robert Murdock. Between 1992 and 1995, Concentrations was replaced by Encounters, a series that paired international artists with Texas artists.

The Concentrations series energizes the Museum's contemporary art program, connecting artists, teachers, critics, and collectors to the larger dialogue of art. Focusing on young artists, the series fosters experimentation and risk. Moreover, the series strengthens the Museum's position in the broader art world by championing artists such as Kiki Smith, Mariko Mori, and Doug Aitken, all of whom have gone on to have successful international careers.

Generally, each exhibition is project-based, showcasing a recently completed body of work or site specific installation by an emerging artist. On a few occasions, the focus has been work that reflects a new direction or step in the practices of an older, more established artist. The work ranges from traditional painting and sculpture to the latest innovations of media, created by an international array of artists. Pat Steir's The Brueghel Series (A Vanitas __Series of Style) was a monumental work of sixteen monochrome and sixty-four polychrome paintings, installed in a grid and based on Jan Brueghel the Elder's 17th-century painting Flowers in a Blue Vase. Exploring the poetics of light, Dallas artist Patrick Faulhaber's small panel paintings recalled the landscapes of the German romantics or American luminists in their painstaking detail. Maki Tamura's elegant scrolls (watercolor brush and linoleum print on mulberry paper) reflected the influences of Japanese woodblock and ukiyo prints, Southeast Asian painting, and 19th- and 20th-century Japanese and Western children's books.

The Concentrations series has also embraced sculpture. The canoe shells of New Guinea and Polynesia inspired local artist Dalton Maroney's large-scale boat forms. Anne Chu based her awkward yet graceful wooden burial tomb figures on ming chi, or "spirit objects," of the Tang dynasty. Bonnie Collura's cartoon-colored mixed-media tableaux united subjects from classical mythology, the Bible, fairy tales, and popular film.

Photographers have often created staged fictional situations, as Dallas artist Nic Nicosia did in his humorous photographic series of cast members (The Cast). In 1997 Japanese artist Mariko Mori presented large-scale photographs of herself disguised as a sexy, playful cyborg (half woman, half machine) in contemporary Tokyo. The collaborative team of Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss showed pseudoscientific photographs of witty combinations of ordinary objects and a film entitled The Way __Things Go.

Many of the works can be described as installations. Max Neuhas presented a subtle sound installation; Vernon Fisher's site-specific installation was an intelligent investigation of language and image; and Kiki Smith displayed hand-blown glass bottles and jars etched with the names of different bodily fluids, a thought-provoking thought-provoking exploration of the "body as a vehicle for expressing our lives." In The Slow Tide, which included a light box, a painting, drawings, and a wall piece made of enamel on sintra, Matthew Ritchie examined the creative systems of life and art in narratives, allegories, and mythology.

The series has also featured new media. Mary Lucier's large-scale video piece Wilderness, _featuring seven large television screens on faux-classical pedestals arranged on a series of stepped platforms, used technology to explore the American pastoral myth. Matthew McCaslin's _Harnessing Nature also addressed the intersection of nature and technology. The transformation of the oldest desert in the world and the richest diamond mine on the coast of Namibia was Doug Aitken's subject in Diamond __Sea. The enveloping video-sound installation explored speed and perception at the end of the 20th century in a decidedly nonlinear, hyperrealized way.

The _Concentrations _exhibitions have introduced visitors to the variety and the adventure of the art of the moment, allowing for the examination of essential ideas, issues, and strategies of artists as they emerge onto the national and international scene. _Concentrations _is a vital ongoing component of the Museum's vital responsibility to present the art of our time.


I. Dallas Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin, no. 2 (March-April, 1981), 2.

Adapted from

Suzanne Weaver, "Concentrations: Exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Art," in Dallas Museum of Art, 100 Years , ed. Dorothy M. Kosinski (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 2003), Pamphlet number 44.