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Jason Reynaga’s “The Dark Side” is a delirious treat. Photo by Anthony Mariani

Fort Worth needs to acknowledge what it has in the Community Arts Center. The former location of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth has been stuffing its myriad galleries with art for nearly two solid decades. It’s not all local, and it’s not all good, but it is art, the handiwork of patient, sometimes subversive, other times pedantic souls who toil for little to no money or other kinds of rewards just for the sake of it.

Several group shows occupy the walls now, and while they mostly miss, there are some gems.

Chief among them are three pieces by a local artist who really deserves more attention. Jason Reynaga’s hanging sculptures are deliriously zesty. “The Dark Side” is a vertical assemblage of tiny, mostly black and red Legos (or Lego-like bits) that, with its towers and what look like artillery stations, could be the deck of an Empire destroyer designed by a hyper-creative child. The Jet Age-esque phaser gun, in brilliant yellows and oranges, and “Construct One,” a similarly Lego-fied delight in creamy pastels, may tug on a species of nostalgia known primarily to Gen-Xers and millennials. When we weren’t watching sci-fi soap operas or devouring superhero cartoons and comics, we were playing with their trademarked toys. The Force is strong with this one.

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Local photographer Megan DeSoto is another perhaps unheralded star. With a BFA from UTA, the third-year MFA candidate at UNT has crafted a one-woman show that is subtly disruptive. Though Mother on Display may bear only a tenuous relationship to parenthood itself, the exhibit is a melancholy study of the art of design, the kind in the galleries and the kind at home. Her digital photographs of found objects work like an advertising campaign for art itself. The mannequins, floral objects, vintage toys, and other domestic effluvia are set against brilliantly hued backgrounds and say a lot with very little. In one photo (see: cover image), the leg of a woman wearing a bright blue, not-so-fancy high heel shoe appears ready to step down onto a white cake. The suggestion of meaning here is everything. It’s way more significant than any sort of spelled-out treatise. Art isn’t – or “shouldn’t be” – about obviousness. That’s what advertising is for.

In another piece, two old-school beige telephones seem to recline, cords a-tangle, across the shadowy folds of a rich gold fabric, hinting at the intimacy of a time gone by which once occupied our psyches the way sexting may now. DeSoto’s “object portraiture” (her term) serves as a sort of jumping-off point for all sorts of conversations or stories about not just parenthood but the age we live in. All of the pieces take their titles from trending hashtags, which heightens the dichotomies but rings a little false –– along with the rest of her show, her sensuous close-ups of floral teacups in floral-print settings couldn’t be further away from the incessantly irritating buzzing noise of social media. More than any other emotion, Mother on Display also summons nostalgia but for a time we may have seen only in candy-colored movies and TV shows. Also featuring wallpaper and sculptures, the exhibit goes down easy –– like that first sip of Malbec after the kids have gone to sleep. 

In the first gallery from the entrance, Are We Having Fun Yet? gathers the studious, serious, elemental work of the collective of the same name. The Fort Worth photographers who, according to their artist’s statement, “meet up and walk around the city archiving the community’s day-to-day” have composed a valentine to Fort Worth in all of its gritty, indefatigable glory. Protestors bear signs, a man lies on the ground attended to by first responders, faces of all different colors look back out at us, traffic zips by, leaving long red and white streaks –– it all makes for a good snippet at what goes on in this city, in the streets, every day and what the Fort looks like from unusual perspectives. Life here, the collective says, is messy, scary, and trying but, without a doubt, beautiful. Like a rainbow.

A few other pieces in some of the other exhibits really stood out. I loved Veronica Jaeger’s two surreal drawings in pencil, Grace Pham’s prints of tiny bubble babies congregating on butter and pudding, and Jaime Flores’ pixelated “Dream_Course_2.”

Group shows

Thru Dec 26 at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, 1300 Gendy St, FW. Free. 817-738-1938

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