New Art World Springs Forth South of Red River

Article excerpt

Texas seems to have become the center of the art universe, and Fort Worth just may be its epicenter.

Want statistical proof? Consider that four of 1997's 10 most popular shows played Fort Worth or had a Fort Worth connection, according to The Art Newspaper, an international publication.

No. 1, in terms of attendance, was a Chicago presentation of "Renoir's Portraits," which is currently at the Kimbell Art Museum. Nos. 6 and 7 were the Fort Worth and Brooklyn presentations of the Kimbell-organized "Monet and the Mediterranean." Coming in fourth was the presentation of paintings by Georges de La Tour that was organized by the Louvre, and which was inspired by the exhibition presented by the Kimbell in spring 1997. But the wealth of art goes far beyond Fort Worth, and far beyond last year. Texas art institutions have long rolled out notable shows. But the string of single-artist shows presented this season is dazzling, draped like a diamond necklace around the state's museums and galleries. Since November, we've seen Georg Baselitz, Eliot Porter, Erwin E. Smith and Richard Diebenkorn in Fort Worth. Georgia O'Keeffe in San Antonio. Jasper Johns and Francisco Goya in Dallas. Nancy Graves in Denton. Robert Rauschenberg, Theophile Bra, Joseph Cornell and Pablo Picasso in Houston. Linda Ridgway in Houston and Dallas. Impressive as that list is at face value, what really gets me going is how each show presents art as something vital, fresh and authentic. Some of the shows break ground. Some showcase the depth of local collections. Some provide an unconventional look at familiar material. Others argue for the relevance of artists long underappreciated. Additionally, they all demonstrate dynamic curatorial vision backed by solid scholarship and high professional standards. The Porter, Smith, Goya and Cornell exhibitions were based entirely or for the most part upon collections owned by the museums that presented them: the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth for Porter and Smith, the Meadows Museum in Dallas and the Menil Collection in Houston, respectively, for the other two. Two presentations, Picasso and O'Keeffe, have been Texas exclusives, organized by Texas institutions. The Bra exhibition plucks an artist from obscurity and introduces him to the world. …