Kultur: Wednesday, December 14, 2005
(Yawn!) Nothing mind-blowing here, at Gallery 414’s current exhibit.

Local actor shines on the big screen, a Star-T art critic spreads the love, and other effluvia from the crankiest arts columnist in town.

It’s always good to see fellow Cowtowners do well, especially if they’re in Tinseltown. Last week, I held my breath and headed into Dallas to attend a press screening of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, a melodrama written and directed by famed Texan Tommy Lee Jones that stars Fort Worth-based Julio Cedillo in the title role. Allow Kultur to go on the record as saying: Based on his performance in Three Burials, Cedillo — who’s had juicy bit parts in decently received Hollywood joints like The Alamo, All the Pretty Horses, and Bottle Rocket — will be a household name more quickly than you can say “Benicio Del Toro!” Though not as traditionally handsome as other male stars his age (somewhere in his mid 30s), Cedillo got skillz. Mad skillz. The best part is that if his career doesn’t turn out as Kultur has planned, he still will be able to say that he was part of one helluva Western, actually one of the finest existential versions of its kind, right up there with Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia! and Erich von Stroheim’s silent but deadly Greed. Along with Cedillo and Jones (winner at the Cannes Film Festival this past spring of best actor honors for his performance in Three Burials), players in the ensemble cast — Barry Pepper, Dwight Yoakam, Melissa Leo, and ex-Band member Levon Helm — all turn in utterly amazing performances.

But don’t expect to see Cedillo hanging out at the Torch anytime soon: He’s pretty busy, having just finished shooting scenes with Antonio Banderas for the upcoming thriller Bordertown while wrapping up The Fragility of Seconds, a Latino-noir flick that Cedillo is co-directing.

Three Burials opens in New York and Los Angeles this month and will begin an exclusive run at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas in February.

Rose-Colored QWERTY Keyboard

To those of you who think that Kultur is by definition above bombing easy targets, wow, do you have another think comin’.

Par example: the Tarrant County art world’s biggest target. Well, second-biggest target, next to, uh, the Tarrant County art world itself.

Ever since the Star-Telegram’s Andrew Marton vacated the visual arts beat for editorial management about a year ago, Kultur and presumably the rest of the local visual arts community have been a-giggle with the handiwork of his replacement. A talented wordsmith though neither as authoritative nor as knowledgeable as Marton, Gaile Robinson is emblematic of a trend that has infected most mid-sized, mediocre daily newspapers, such as the Startlegram: When writing criticism, many daily “critics” are either being forced by their bosses or are choosing to focus on educating readers rather than, y’know, writing anything critical about art, good or bad.

A long time ago, much-lauded windbag Susan Sontag wrote in In Defense of Interpretation that smart, contemporary culture critics would best serve smart, contemporary readers by describing works of art in such a way that the good and bad attributes speak for themselves. Robinson takes Sontag a little too literally: The Star-T’er does nothing but describe works of art inch by painfully minute inch as if she’s providing the play by play to a Cowboys game. I have endured — um, I mean, read — some of Robinson’s reviews from start to finish, and I still have no friggin idea whether she liked or hated what she was writing about. If a critic is not providing critical insight into works of art, then what, may I ask, is she doing? Helping beef up the paper’s bottom line by not offending major advertisers like the Kimbell, Amon Carter, and Modern? Possibly, though Kultur still believes that somewhere deep in the bowels of the Star-Telegram beats a brave heart full of integrity. (Though perhaps slowly and anemically.)

Kultur’s always wondered: Is Robinson as peacefully detached in real life as she is in print? Could you imagine: Oh, that’s OK, Mr. Mechanic. I don’t mind paying extra for your mistakes! Or: Oh, that’s fine, Mr. Satellite Dish Guy. I’m actually starting to warm up to the fuzzy reception! Or: Oh, sure, Boss. You can make me work longer hours for less money — that’s just your way of being yourself!

I don’t think so.

The losers are the folks — every single one of us — who make up Tarrant County’s visual arts community: How can we trust the primary visual arts critic of our huge county’s only daily newspaper when everything she writes about is wonderful and fantastic?

Answer: We can’t. When everything and everybody are great, then nothing and nobody are.

Around the Horn

Back in the day — like wayyy back — most virtuoso pianists weren’t afraid to show off their musical muscle. These consummate showpeople knew that great performances weren’t made only of variegated shades of profundity. Levity was also important. How thrilled then do you think Kultur was a couple of weeks ago at Bass Hall when pianist Adam Golka essentially went nuts? As the encore to his concert with the Fort Worth Symphony, the 19-year-old wunderkind reached into the past and showed the late Vladimir Horowitz a thing or two. Golka first busted out “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and then went into “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the Sousa march that Horowitz — having written his own souped-up transcription — once dazzled audiences with as a patriotic gesture during World War II. Golka then began playing both songs at the same time. Kultur didn’t know whether to salute or yell, “Yee-haw!” Asked afterward if the two-headed song was his own concoction, Golka replied in the affirmative but added sheepishly, “They’re not published. They’re not even written down.” ... Either Kultur doesn’t know squat about art or Anne Allen and Elaine Taylor know so much about the stuff that Kultur — after what feels like 100 years of looking at and studying art — has finally been left, unceremoniously, behind the curve. Or maybe Allen and Taylor are the ones who don’t know nuthin’. Well, I highly doubt they’re philistines — Allen is curator of the wonderful and unduly neglected Arlington Museum of Art, and Taylor is the gallery manager for the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. But an exhibit of the duo’s individual drawings, which opened at Gallery 414 last weekend, doesn’t exactly help the artists’ case. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all about minimalism in all of its myriad manifestations (post-minimalism, post-post-minimalism, Target’s handheld kitchen appliances). Now that I think about it, some of Kultur’s all-time favorite artists across all disciplines have been classified as minimalists (Sol LeWitt, Philip Glass, Mies, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Hem). I just didn’t see anything novel from Allen and Taylor, even though they strive for great subtlety, minimalism’s tiny white calling card. There comes a point when too quiet is too quiet: Allen’s contributions are limited to a couple of dark line drawings of mesh-like objects on the white walls (trés LeWitt), while Taylor delivers a chorus of circles in various shades of black and white. In the presence of such stentorian silence, even smart viewers might begin to feel either condescended to by the show or above it. (To those of you who say, “Well, maybe that’s Allen and Taylor’s point — to get the viewer thinking about art,” Kultur says, “The ’90s are so over, dude.”) The show, Enduring Pattern/Recognition, will hang through early January, at 414 Templeton St. in Fort Worth. Admission is free. For details, call 817-336-6595 or visit www.gallery414.org. ... Kultur doesn’t give shout-outs lightly, but one is definitely in order this week. The reason dance fans haven’t seen popular Metropolitan Classical Ballet principal ballerina Marina Goshko over the past few months is big and round: Goshko is due any minute now. Proud papa-to-be Andre Prikhodko is also a company principal. Both dancers were born in Russia and make their home in Texas. Good luck, you two, and congrats.

Contact Kultur at kultur@fwweekly.com.

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