Among KAWS’ works on display in Fort Worth is “Companion (Resting Place)” (2013). Paul Moseley
Among KAWS’ works on display in Fort Worth is “Companion (Resting Place)” (2013). Paul Moseley

Arts & Culture

2016 was a fine year for art at DFW museums

By Gaile Robinson, Punch Shaw and Andrew Marton

Special to the Star-Telegram

December 21, 2016 10:51 AM

It was a blockbuster year for local museums. From Frank Stella and KAWS at The Modern to Monet at the Kimbell and Irving Penn at the Dallas Museum of Art, our critics had plenty to rave about in 2016. Here’s what they said in published reviews of some favorite visual art exhibitions of 2016.

KAWS: Where the End Starts

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

“When it comes to KAWS and sculpture, his jumping-off point is life-size, often culminating in several-stories-high gigantic. Five wooden works command neck-craning attention in the Modern’s largest ground-floor gallery. Yet for all their undeniable size, these five works — especially Small Lie (2013), with its bowed head and Pinocchio-like expanding nose — convey remarkably poignant human emotions. The largest of the works, Together (2016), has one figure consoling another in its humongous arms, while other figures seem to be wrestling with a kind of existential loneliness. Indeed, KAWS’ sculptures often manage to juxtapose the lightheartedness inherent in any cartoon character with the more somber aspects of their expressions, reflecting the harsher realities of the world.”

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— Andrew Marton, Oct. 24

Frank Stella: A Retrospective

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

“K.81 Combo (K.37 and K.43)” by Frank Stella at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
Brandon Wade Special to the Star-Telegram

“The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth has never looked quite so modern — in the 20th-century-modern-art way. The museum is almost exploding with 100 enormous paintings and sculptural works in “Frank Stella: A Retrospective,” which is just barely enough to encapsulate this artist’s dynamic oeuvre. This exhibit was, indeed, sorely overdue. It packs the Modern with a power and energy that is a new high bar for the museum. ... For anyone who is not familiar with the man, here is an opportunity to see what all the Stella noise was about, and for the rest of us, a reminder that he never stopped making it.”

— Gaile Robinson, April 16

Monet: The Early Years

Kimbell Art Museum

Claude Monet’s “On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt” (1868), oil on canvas
The Art Institute of Chicago Potter Palmer Collection

“These paintings are not signature Monet. They are not the pretty, sun-dappled, pastel-colored fields, cathedrals and ponds that have found their way to countless calendars. These early works are often dark, without a romantic palette, but they are rife with the subjects that went on to engage the artist throughout his career: reflections of the sky in water, the play of light through a tangle of tree branches and the diminution of people in enormous landscapes. They are the pathway to Monet's inimitable style, which earned him the title of the old man of impressionist landscapes.”

— Gaile Robinson, Oct. 15

American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood

Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Thomas Hart Benton’s “The Kentuckian” (1954), oil on canvas
LACMA LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art

“Benton’s unique style, which is so thoroughly surveyed in this exhibition, seems a perfect match for Hollywood. His works are truly ‘motion pictures’ captured in frames. Benton’s limber, curving figures roll and undulate across his canvases, suggesting movement despite being trapped in a static, two-dimensional space. His subjects feel as free of the rigid tyranny of bones as the bits of light and shadow we call “movie stars” are free of the constraints of being human ... with this exhibition, you see not only what Benton did, but how he did it. And it is all as riveting as any blockbuster at the local cineplex. If the Amon Carter sold popcorn at this show, it would be perfect.”

— Punch Shaw, Feb. 9

Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty

Dallas Museum of Art

“Bee” (1995) by Irving Penn
gene Courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art

“ Early in his mentorship of Penn, Alexey Brodovitch had given him some sage advice: ‘Every image needs a bit of poison. ... That bit of poison arrests attention.’... If seeing the tonal glory of an old battered work glove is not enticement enough to visit the DMA, the mid-century fashion photographs are there as well, and they are even more breathtaking now than they were on the pages of Vogue. They are a reminder of a time when fashion was treated like an art form and not celebrity wrapping.”

— Gaile Robinson, April 26

Ann Veronica Janssens

Nasher Sculpture Center

Fog escapes as a man enters “Blue, Red and Yellow” by artist Ann Veronica Janssens.
Laura Buckman Special to the Star-Telegram

“It’s beyond weird in a wonderful way. To be in a room with others who cannot be seen, only heard, while enveloped in clouds of colorful mist can be quite intoxicating. Although some people find it claustrophobic. It is the kind of transformative experience you expect from hallucinogenic drugs, but here it is, delivered drug-free with a wallop. ... This exhibit engages the viewer’s perceptions in ways that are not usually experienced, and in doing so, imposes itself on the memory as something new and quite different.”

— Gaile Robinson, Feb. 1

The Brothers Le Nain: Painters of Seventeenth-Century France

Kimbell Art Museum

An unfinished portrait of the artists on display at a preview for “The Brothers Le Nain: Painters of Seventeenth-Century France.”
Rodger Mallison

“... When all three Le Nains were painting as one in the 1630s and 1640s, they were formidable. Any attempt to separate them is frustratingly difficult, and while untidy academically, it is perhaps unnecessary. Their story is more interesting for its lack of resolution. The gallery that illustrates the research that went into the exhibition is fascinating, and it spurs the visitor to question each painting with the clues that have been offered. But soon the sleuthing seems purely a scholastic exercise. These works are so much more than the brush strokes and the way the eyes are highlighted.”

— Gaile Robinson, May 26

Border Cantos

Amon Carter Museum of American Art

“Surveillance blimp, Marfa, Texas” by Richard Misrach, part of the “Border Cantos” exhibit at the Amon Carter.
Amon Carter Museum of American Art

“One good example of the exhibit as a whole is Effigy No. 3, an enigmatic image of a somewhat tortured-looking, scarecrowlike figure constructed of sticks and a sweatshirt in the foreground, seeming to stand guard at the entrance of a dry culvert. Is it a warning? Is it a direction? Is that America at the other end of the culvert? Those are the sort of unanswerable questions tantalizingly raised throughout the exhibition, which includes massive landscapes cut into by the border fence and more small-scale shots of things like piles of shotgun shell casings left after Border Patrol target practice.”

— Punch Shaw, Nov. 5

2016 A&E Year in Review

Friday: Movies and music

Today: Visual art

Monday: Television

Tuesday: Dance

Thursday: Theater

Friday: Restaurants

Saturday: Classical music