Ah, Fall Gallery Night, an evening dedicated to free booze and food — if you can call cheese cubes and tiny, quartered sandwiches food — and fantastic local art.
I always feel bad about going out knowing full well that I can’t afford anything. So I make up for it another way: I round up as many folks as I can and show face. I figure that, as an upstanding citizen of this great city, I am bound by duty to drink as much free swill and nosh on as many bite-sized delicacies as I can. Nothing pains me more than the sight of an empty local exhibition space on Gallery Night — and untouched coolers of bottled beer and full plastic plates of shrimp. What can I say? I’m good like that. I should start out by saying that I am no art critic. No, no, no, it’s true. I took a class in college and frequently stroke my anemic, stubbled chin while tooling around the Kimbell, but I generally keep my mouth shut when the topic comes up. A lot of people assume that because I wear glasses and am skinny that I should know my way around Abstract-Expressionism or Futurism. Truth is, I am like most philistines. I simply know what I like, and what I like is free beer and tiny meatballs on toothpicks. And art. Of course.
Some pals and I hit a couple of unspectacular venues early on, just a lot of polite conversation and polite, un-me art. Not until we swung by Gallery 817 on Bluebonnet Circle did the bacchanals begin in earnest. The highlight, we all agreed, was Velton Hayworth’s collection of post-Katrina photos of New Orleans. Even though Hayworth, who coordinated the show, kept apologizing to everyone within earshot for the meager turnout, we noticed a steady stream of people filing in and out of the small venue. At one point, I counted about 30 bodies, with plastic cups of wine or brew in hand, either inside with Hayworth’s fantastic snaps or loitering out front in the parking lot, where, over a giant grill the shape of a NASCAR racer, kind-hearted souls pumped out free hot dogs. (Is there any other place on Earth other than the Fort where the sight of poignant photos and a NASCAR grill together doesn’t seem weird?) Everyone was cool, and the beer was cold.
The place didn’t seem appropriate for high times, and my crew and I — no doubt courtesy of 817’s free brew — were ready to get the party started. That urge was sated by our next stop, Urban Homestead on Camp Bowie Boulevard, where young Zach Hawkins’ muted paintings tried to stand out from the rest of the cramped space’s zillions of antiques and tchotchkes. Again, not knowing squat about art, I still think that Hawkins’ stuff was great. The Homestead also served top-shelf beer (Heineken, Dos Equis, Corona), and the crowd, though small in size, was downright huge in volume and good-timey vibe: a lot of screeching and bellowing laughter, a lot of scream-talking, and a lot of boozing. Up next was the Fort Worth Weekly party (I guess my invitation got lost in the mail) at an empty storefront in 6333 Camp Bowie Blvd., where many pretty people were seen and where the Dave Karnes Trio laid down some classy straight-ahead jazz. There wasn’t any artwork on the walls, but the place was as handsome as any swank club in town — and the two female bartenders were masterpieces.
Though it was still rather early in the evening, all of the galleries were closing up shop and their denizens heading to after-parties, which led my buddies and I and some recruits from the Weekly shindig to Lancaster Lofts, where the Metrognome Collective was holding a group exhibit. The artist whose work stood head and shoulders above everything else on display was Christopher Blay. Even people who know their Warhol from their Warhola know that, in the realm of local conceptual art, Blay is a god among insects. All of the thank-you that I needed for my contribution to the Fort’s vibrant art scene came after the ’Gnome show, when my crew, enlarged again, this time by some Metrognome stragglers, decamped for painter Ronnie Tomlinson’s art studio nearby. The sight of about 30 folks dancing and laughing warmed my heart like another sip of fine, free pilsner. You’re welcome, Fort Worth. Any time. — Eric Griffey
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