Artspace111 in Fort Worth is hosting the Second Annual Regional Juried Exhibition. The juror this year was Vernon Fisher, the most acclaimed artist in Fort Worth.
His work has been shown internationally and is represented in more than 40 museums. He’s had more than 80 solo shows, and almost all of this was accomplished while he held down a teaching position at the University of North Texas. The man has been busy, he’s been around, and he’s seen a lot.
So when it came time to see the Second Annual Regional, it was no surprise that there were surprising works hanging on the wall. Of the 782 pieces submitted by 314 artists, Fisher chose 75 works by 67 artists. There are quite a few unusual pieces and little-known artists, as well as some stalwarts and newcomers.
There were artists who did not make the cut last year but whose work is hanging this year, and others who were hanging a year ago and are out in the heat a year later. In the days before the opening, artists took to a Facebook comment string to lament their exclusion or revel in their acceptance. They showed no bitterness and a great deal of support. They know from experience the fates change with each juror or jury.
Fisher is familiar with the inexplicable rejection/acceptance experience. Years ago, a painting he submitted to a juried show was excluded. The next year, the same painting was included by a different jury and awarded best in show.
Which makes one wonder if artists need to pander to the jury. “I don’t think anyone changed their work to appeal to me,” says Fisher, “although they might have selected their work knowing the juror.”
He says there are things in the show he would never paint, “but in my experience as a teacher, I learned to be accommodating of everyone, or I tried to be.”
Judging a show such as this, he was governed by equal parts accommodation and inclusion. He chose pieces by artists he considered constituents.
“Theoretically, they are all my constituents. Not the ones I kicked out, but the ones that got in. That’s just the way it works,” he says. “I am completely unapologetic about it. That’s the only way it can work for me.
“I made room for things I would never in a million years do, but they are pretty good for what they are.”
Fisher does not hesitate to say the paintings, photographs and a few wall reliefs chosen for this exhibition will have to weather for decades before their true worth is readable.
“The thing is none of this gets sorted out now. It gets sorted out in the future,” he says. “Future generations will find a use for it or not. Hopefully, it will be a way to see the world as it was emotionally, spiritually, materially and physically, or whatever.”
The painting that he liked the best, the one he awarded the most prize money to, Kenneth Craft’s National Park, has combinations of elements that are often found in Fisher’s own work: text, cartoons and occasionally goofy American cultural references.
“I was taken by this; what I like about it is he has a couple of worlds intersecting and there is a mixture of tone,” he says. “One part is kind of jokey and stupid and another part is more serious. It has an insouciant attitude, which I really like.”
Fisher’s own painting vocabulary is much like his spoken one. He is as likely to refer to something as “insouciant” as he is to say “it’s neat.”
Another favorite also mixes tones, combining abstraction, abbreviation and political subtleties. The artist, Tudor Mitroi, is a former student of Fisher’s, so he was familiar with the back story.
“This guy is from Romania and he grew up when it was a communist-controlled dictatorship,” he says. “His work is all about surveillance, hence the map. It’s all about control of information.”
Another work that got a juror’s special award was a landscape by Page Coleman. “She’s a good painter. She’s good at what she does. It’s not something I am interested in, but I like the way this is done in a very straightforward way,” Fisher says.
Fisher points out other inclusions, and apologizes that they are often overwhelmed in a group show such as this. A piece by Cecily Fergeson, Hive, which is physically small and layered with stitched fabrics with small incisions that reveal a gold brocade underneath, is subtle, too subtle for a show with this amount of variety, Fisher says.
“No one will notice this,” he says. “If there were a whole show by this artist, it would be impressive. It’s like the works in an art fair; art fairs reward the biggest and the brightest, whatever sparkles and glitters.”
Fisher then draws attention to the asphalt paintings by Marcos Hernandez. He likens them to the works from the 1980s that were minimalist with an acknowledged tip of the hat to abstraction.
Hernandez’s swaths of gritty black asphalt that bleed along the edges look like landscapes. The white paper is the sky, the rough edge of the asphalt is trees, and along another white strip, the bleeding edge could be a reflection of the trees in water.
“It’s just really interesting to me, just kind of neat,” he says.
Gaile Robinson, 817-390-7113
Regional Juried Exhibition
▪ Through Aug. 7
▪ Artspace111, 111 Hampton St., Fort Worth
▪ 817-692-3228; www.artspace111.com