Dallas' Ro2 Art offers poignant, heart-stopping work in group show "Thingness"
Ro2 Art, the contemporary fine arts gallery in Dallas’ Cedars Neighborhood is a concealed jewel. Founded in 2010 by Mother and Son partners Susan Roth Romans and Jordan Roth, the small building is easy to miss, but inside it you’ll find treasures that are thought-provoking and raw in their vulnerability.
Currently housing the contemporary group show, Thingness, and an important solo show of new works from Dee Shapiro, this tiny gallery is bursting with illumination. There’s no escaping the art – you enter the space and it’s all right there before you. You’re in the middle of it, and the further back into the small gallery you go, the more you uncover.
Thingness: A Group Show is a collection from 11 artists from Texas and beyond and showcases works that contemplate and explore the idea of “thingness” – defined here as “the quality or state of objective existence or reality.” The largest piece in the collection, artist Davis Birks’ US/MX, 2012, is a pair of 1994 pickup truck doors with bullet holes in the shape of the United States and Mexico. You can’t help but stop and take a long look. My first thought was that the piece seemed bold in it’s opinion, but the more I looked at it and reflected upon it in relation to the idea of objective existence, the deeper I found myself falling into my own contemplation of where we belong in the world, or how we belong, or what “belonging” means. Birks’ fractured landscapes (two of his pieces are on display along with the truck door landscape) are powerful and heart-stopping statements on what it means to be at home in the world.
Julia Jalowiec’s work in the collection is a more humorous take on the idea of "thingness".
Her raw and irreverent ceramic, cast iron, and cement recreations of everyday items border on grotesque, and I found myself thinking about how much importance we place on things that ultimately make no difference in our life while ignoring or taking advantage of the things we must have to survive. Jalowiec’s ceramic pieces made me laugh and I thought her use of earthbound materials made the irreverence all the more grounded in reality. (Maybe we’re all a little absurd in how we want to be seen). The standout pieces for me were the over sized cement cigarette butts: people smoke over here when no one’s watching, and the ceramic rendition of a European outlet: in case somebody visits from Europe and needs to plug in their hair dryer.
The thread and wood pieces presented by Bumin Kim elicited a very different response about existence. Her pristine Vexillum #30, Vexillum #31, and Vexillum #32 brought out a deeply visceral feeling of being a child. I wanted to brush my hair 1,000 times, pet a horse’s mane, or string together a bracelet in my favorite colors for my best friend. I could almost taste my 8-year old self craving tactile input, and my heart opened at the thought. Kim’s work is sophisticated, delicate, and easy to underestimate. I recommend you take the time to really absorb its energy.
Don’t miss the exhibit in the back of the gallery – Dee Shapiro: Largely Petite. Shapiro’s mixed media collages are evocative memories of nature, the structure of a woman’s womb, even aerial maps. Shapiro’s use of paper, fabric, ink, and paint to create the small, abstract images is thoughtful and purposeful. Whether the surfaces are muted colors or vibrant expressions, each feels personal and poignant.
Ro2 Art is located in Dallas’ Cedars Neighborhood, near Downtown Dallas at 1501 S. Ervay St., and represents a diverse group of emerging, mid-career, and established contemporary artists. Thingness: A Group Show and Dee Shapiro: Largely Petite, have been extended through January 11, 2020. Admission to Ro2 Art is free, and the gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 12-5 pm. Visit them online at https://www.ro2art.com.