Ex Libris


January 12 – February 23, 2013


Dallas – Talley Dunn Gallery is pleased to present a group exhibition entitled EX LIBRIS, featuring the work of Julie Bozzi, Vernon Fisher, Joseph Havel, Linda Ridgway, Matthew Sontheimer, Erick Swenson and Xiaoze Xie.  The show will be on view January 12th through February 23rd in the Main Gallery and will open with an evening reception for the artists on Saturday, January 12th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.


Drawn from the words commonly found within a bookplate to designate a tome’s owner (“From the library of…”), EX LIBRIS presents the idea of the library as a place for imaginative exploration, a point from which to dive into the worlds of cherished interests, dreams, and imaginary places.  As our experience of books and learning has changed so much with the digital age, EX LIBRIS takes one last, romantic view at the library as a space that not only treasures language and the written word, but also acts as a repository for special collections of important objects and documents from faraway places.


Linda Ridgway’s two works entitled I Dwell and I Know are inspired by the first line of Robert Frost’s poem Ghost House: “I dwell in a lonely house I know / that vanished many a summer ago.” Both pieces employ the line of poetry as crocheted into a simple band of words.  The sculpture introduces the words cast into a delicate bronze, curled into itself, whereas the work on paper begins with a ghost image created by running the lightly inked fabric through a printing press, which leaves a faint trace on the paper, onto which the artist finishes the drawing with graphite.  Both pieces portray the artist’s love of poetry and the central role it has played within her artwork for several decades.


Like Ridgway, the inspiration of text has also served as a muse for Houston sculptor Joseph Havel.  With his tall tower of winding, cursive words in Drinks are boiling., Havel quotes from John Berryman’s poem, Dream Song 46:   “I am, outside. Incredible panic rules. / People are blowing and beating each other without mercy. / Drinks are boiling. Iced / drinks are boiling. The worse anyone feels, the worse / treated he is. Fools elect fools.”  While the elegant tower unfolds part of Berryman’s text, the form communicates more about loss and absence than it reveals about any particular meaning or interpretation.  
Havel’s towers or stacks of books cast from urethane resin meticulously capture all the details of the forms’ shapes and features, as they also present memory as a collection of experiences, rather than a linear, easily understood path.  Poignant with their detail and the absence of color, Family Fiction re-creates actual books from the collection of the artist’s parents and consider the importance of these objects as symbols for memory and past experience.

The symbolism of books also figures prominently in the artwork of Xiaoze Xie, a Chinese-born, California-based artist who currently teaches at Stanford University.  Xie’s representational paintings and prints of books are based upon photographs that he takes within archives and rare book collections around the world.  Much like an archivist who loves gaining access to special collections of publications and newspapers, Xie documents such collections within his series of photogravure images from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto and the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.


Moving from the representation of books to a detailed system of mapping, Matthew Sontheimer’s appropriately titled work on vellum, Introduction, highlights itself as one of the first pieces to include the artist’s diagram for the participants in his dialogues, the weigher and the miner (derived from the last and first letters of the artist’s last name), a “Rosetta stone” for understanding Sontheimer’s subsequent text-images.   Interspersed throughout the artwork are drawings and tracings of the symbols “W” and M” together with images from a child’s drawing and two toddlers sharing a bottle.


A full-on, text frenzy is barely contained within Shooting Games, Sontheimer’s diptych that dissects such varied topics as the 1968 film Tokyo Olympiad and its influence on the filming of sporting events, the socks of commentator Ed Sobol, and the discipline of athletes as they prepare for their Olympic events.    With a blur of words and disparate imagery, Sontheimer presents a map-like structure through of his own maze of thoughts and text.


Just as Sontheimer’s guide resists easy interpretation, Vernon Fisher’s map and blackboard paintings also offer a layered, complex world of imagery and possible meanings.   Within Jocko at Dover, a map of the Battle of Flanders is offered for our review, but after closer investigation, a circus clown glares down upon the scene, as cartoon characters Nancy and Sluggo circle around a carefully rendered vignette of the sea.  All parts added together reveal nothing but the postmodern impossibility of a unified, singular meaning.

Fisher’s blackboard painting Under the Deep, Deep Sea also defies easy explanation, as the smeared, partially erased text and geometrical shapes from an earlier layer lie as ghostly images beneath the diagrams of coral and other sea life painted around an empty life raft adrift at sea.  All the disparate imagery defy the viewer’s attempt to reconcile all the depicted elements.  Most amazing of all is Fisher’s ability to render something that looks so fragile and ethereal with the permanent materials of oil and acrylic.



With a careful rendering of every minute detail, Erick Swenson’s Scuttle presents a sea snail in the act of crushing its own shell, the surface of the animal still seemingly wet as it glistens in the light.  The title represents the maritime strategy of flooding one’s own ship so that the enemy cannot take it.  Perhaps alluding to the self-destructive nature inherent in the creative act, Scuttle has been painstakingly crafted from cast resin painted with acrylic.


Similar to Swenson in her ability to pull the viewer completely into her depicted worlds is Fort-Worth based artist Julie Bozzi.  The artist creates small-scale, gouache on paper renderings of actual settings within her community.  Painted directly on site in the artist’s car, Bozzi invites the viewer to peer out the pictorial window directly into another world, where the viewer’s sense of the space is also met with an underlying sense of foreboding or tension, as the natural world presented is more than mere straightforward experience.


Talley Dunn Gallery is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and by appointment.  For more information about the exhibition or to request additional visuals, please contact Beth Taylor at the gallery at (214) 521-9898 or via e-mail at info@talleydunn.com.