Like the Goatsilk Gallery’s eBay show last October, the Recycled Art show on view for a few more days at the Dana Gallery depends on an appreciation of randomness to give it heft as an exhibit, the unifying thread that bastes together the pieces only as strong as coincidence, no stronger than acquisition. A five-person jury judged the entries for the show, which was open to the public, and a handful of “winning” pieces ended up on the wall, alongside the papers inviting silent auction bids. There are also a good many works stacked up on the floor or tucked out of sight, some still bound in protective plastic. The pieces came in wearing the clothes on their backs, the frames they’ve inhabited for 10 or 20 or 30 years. While it had anticipated the Russell Chatham landscapes or the Stan Healy photographs, the gallery was surprised to find itself in possession of a Marc Chagall lithograph and a Salvador Dali original colored woodblock. Independent of each piece’s unique properties, the force of the collection as a show reminds us of the talismanic quality of art and its highly personal interpretations.
One collector gave up her piece, saying, “I’m getting a divorce and I don’t want anything to do with my husband anymore.” She gleefully purged her life of the painting, along with the ex’s other effects. Someone else brought in a couple of works that had been gifts of the artist, a friend with whom he’d since fallen out. He instructed the gallery to sell the pieces for “whatever you can get,” the value of exorcism far greater than the value of money. The paintings of Mexican artist Enrique Flores were collected by another artist during his annual stay in Mexico.
The taste of a community begins to emerge, rather than the taste of a collector or of a gallery owner. Out of homes and offices around Missoula these pieces march into the Dana Gallery, many of them purchased from other Missoula galleries in the past decades. Missoula collectors appear to be loyal to local artists and Montana subjects, and pieces with domestic resonance dominate the show, from a hand-tinted photograph by R.H. McKay to Larry Pirnie’s gel-pen fluorescence in two large oils. Jay Rummel has a number of woodcuts here, all of them marked by his signature density, seething lines improbably fine for a woodcut. There’s a Chatham lithograph of a winter landscape along with two small etchings, a couple of small equine bronzes by E.E. Heika, pieces by potter David Shaner, two Charles Fritz oils, several Stan Healy photographs and one by Lee Nye, and, gathered quite by coincidence, four Walter Hooks oils of unrelated provenance.
Hooks, who chaired UM’s art department for several years, is said to have told a younger artist, “Don’t get stuck doing one thing,” and this show trumpets his philosophy by representing so many styles and media.
And you can be fairly certain this is the first time in art history Marc Chagall has been in the same show with Enrich Torres Pratt, the artist whose work is represented by his oil of a Nancy Drew cover with its companion study in pencil. Bill Brooker has a mixed-media semi-painting titled Moose Landscape in which the moose and especially the moose antlers emerge from the canvas, something Dali would have no doubt appreciated.
Tastes change. Lives change. What once looked beautiful as a centerpiece in the living room now emits a monotonous buzz of irritation every time you pass it by. A romance is dead, a passion for still life over, or a landscape purchased at a summer resort the painful reminder of youthful profligacy. The Dana’s show was conceived by George Ybarra, who has worked in the gallery for the past two years. Art should move around, and the show provides an excuse to exercise the works, pushing them out into daylight again and giving them a new audience and a fresh context. The provenance of each piece grows, like a timeline of life in Missoula, each phase a renewal.
The Dana will hold a closing reception on Saturday, Feb. 28, the art work to be sold in the silent auction with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Art Museum of Missoula. You might end up with Dan Rice’s mounted horse head made largely of red feathers that seem plucked off an old lady’s boa. You might fall in love with the ancient Finot poster titled Eden Carousel which depicts a carousel now located on a ranch in eastern Montana, moved decades ago from France. You might round out your collection of Leonard Baskin or Arthur Rothstein or find yourself in possession at last of a Chagall. And if you don’t like the work once you get it home, don’t worry: You can always bring it back next year.
The closing of the Dana Gallery’s Recycled Art show will be held this Saturday from 4 to 6 PM. The gallery is located at 123 West Broadway. As an added incentive for you to attend, owner Dudley Dana will be sweetening the pot for the Art Museum by donating half the proceeds from his own photographs sold during that time. Call 721-3154 for more information.
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