Hawn Gallery presents Allyson Packer: Sounding – opening February 7


Allyson Packer: Sounding
On view February 7 – March 29, 2020

Monday – Thursday | 9 AM – 9 PM
Friday | 9 AM – 6 PM

Saturday | 12 – 5 PM
Sunday | 2 – 9 PM


Opening Reception with the artist | Friday, February 7 | 5 – 7 pm

The Hawn Gallery is pleased to present Allyson Packer: Sounding, a site-specific, interactive installation spanning all four floors of the Hamon Arts Library at SMU. With looping video, text-based instructions, and subtle interventions into the architecture and resources of the library, Packer offers viewers an encounter with the possibility of the infinite. While infinity may only exist as a concept, spaces like libraries, Packer argues, can suggest it. The building itself has clearly defined boundaries, and at any given time the physical and digital materials that make up its collection of resources can be quantified numerically. There is a sense of impalpable depth too contained within The Hamon Library, the sublime potential of what is already known, what could be known, what is not yet known, and what is unknowable. The exhibition’s title, Sounding, describes the process of measuring— originally with lead and line, today with sonar— the depth of a body of water, without making direct physical contact with it. Likening the contents of the library to a body of water, the pieces included in this installation act as sounding instruments to plumb the collection’s literal and metaphorical depths. Water, in many different forms, recurs thematically across the whole exhibition. It appears in direct citation of J.M.W. Turner’s paintings, in reference to a fountain outside of the library, in imagery based on folders containing sheet music from the Hamon stacks, and on the public computer desktops.

For several months, Packer has visited the library regularly. She spent long afternoons wandering the stacks, getting to know Hamon’s internal and external rhythms and overlooked quirks. This extended visitation with no other purpose allows her to develop an outsider’s peculiar knowledge of the place that’s at once intimate and remote. The resulting interventions into the space deviate only slightly from a patron’s usual experience of the library. Most are subtle to the point of precarity— the term that French art historian, Anna Dezeuze, in Almost nothing: Observations on precarious practices in contemporary art, uses to describe artworks that exist on the verge of disappearing into the fabric of the everyday (5). By existing on the border between perceptible and imperceptible, Packer’s work redirects viewers’ attention to their own bodies, and their awareness of their presence in a space.

Allyson Packer will speak about her work at the opening reception on Friday, February 7.

Artist bio

Allyson Packer makes artwork that engages viewers in an examination of the myths and values embedded in the built environment. Her installations and performances have been shown at Nahmad Projects (London), Hyde Park Art Center (Chicago), and Birds + Richard (Berlin), among other venues. Her upcoming solo exhibition, Inland Sea, will open at the Las Cruces Art Museum’s Brannigan Cultural Center in July 2020. Packer earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her BFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives in Denton, Texas, where she is a faculty member in the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas.

Image courtesy of the artist.

Dezeuze, Anna. Almost Nothing : Observations on Precarious Practices in Contemporary Art. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017.



Collaborative exhibition: RISO BAR – opening January 25th


JANUARY 25, 2020 – DECEMBER 15, 2020

Opening reception: Saturday January 25, 1-5 p.m.

Pollock Gallery

Expressway Tower Suite 101

6116 N Central Expressway, Dallas TX, 75206

The risograph is a printing technology defined by its relative simplicity and the possibilities for experimentation. Invented in Japan in the 1940s, the technology was imagined as a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to the photocopy. In subsequent decades, riso has become a definitive creative tool for a global network of users including artists, designers, publishers and universities. RISO BAR is a collaborative exhibition that engages with the vast riso network, exploring the risograph’s potential as a tool for learning and experimentation.

Over the course of the exhibition, a risograph machine will be available for public use while the Pollock Gallery is open. The machine forms the core of the exhibition: it is what we learn with, practice with, and make with. Visitors to the Pollock Gallery are invited to use the risograph to create works of their own. A series of programmed workshops led by riso producers from Texas and elsewhere will allow visitors to develop and expand both their skills and knowledge of riso history and practices.These workshops will be free and open to the public.

In collaboration with SMU’s Hamon Arts Library, RISO BAR will include a curated collection of riso books and zines from all over the world, as well as fresh juices from Recipe Oak Cliff for sale to the visitors, playing off the idea of the bar.

RISO BAR is a space and long-term exhibition for collective learning and skill-building, a launching pad that will develop into an extant Riso press in Dallas after the exhibit concludes.

RISO BAR is a collaborative initiative between Strange Powers Press, May Makki, Finn Jubak, Recipe Oak Cliff and the SMU Hamon Arts Library.

 Strange Powers Press is a letterpress and risograph studio operating out of Dallas, TX.  Powered by a Riso GR 3770 and a Vandercook Proof Press, founders Mylan Nguyen and Taro Waggoner’s mission is to promote and publish interesting zines and prints as well as hold workshops on various forms of printmaking and making small publications.

Finn Jubak was born and raised in New York City, and received a BA in film from the University of Chicago in 2018. His work in photography and film engages the materiality of landscape and expressiveness of everyday objects. His images have been published in Hamburger Eyes and Aint Bad. He currently lives in Dallas.

May Makki is interested in collaborative systems and practices. She received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Chicago, where she focused on the relationship between art, technology, media, and politics. She is the curator of a private collection in Dallas, TX.   

Recipe Oak Cliff is a delicious food venture of The Susu Cultural Business Incubator dedicated to addressing food security issues and supporting health food entrepreneurs in South Oak Cliff, Texas.

The Hamon Arts Library serves SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts and the arts community. Its circulation and reference collections contain more than 180,000 items relating to the visual and performing arts. In addition, the Library has some 300 subscriptions to arts periodicals and provides access to more than 40 online resources that are specific to the arts.

Archival Precedent: Walid Raad | The Atlas Group

Elizabeth Moran’s investigation into the origin of fact-checked news in the company archives at TIME magazine, Against the Best Possible Sources, concerns the (im)possibility of truth in both method and content. Henry Luce and Briton Hadden founded TIME magazine in 1923, we learn from Moran, as an “exhaustively scrutinized” alternative to the sensationalized, rapid-fire news media of the era. Luce and Hadden held fast to their belief not only that the public deserved verified, fact-based news, but that the facts of an event are, in fact, objective. The writers at TIME did not fact-check their own information, but rather depended on a group of young, well-educated women to follow up with extensive research to confirm “the truth.” So by the time of publication, a minimum of four people have interpreted a story through their own subjective lens: the writer, the fact-checker, the primary source, and the magazine editor.

Seeking more information about the earliest fact-checkers at TIME (the first publication to employ them), Moran turned to the source, the corporate archives of the magazine itself, expecting to find first-person accounts of their groundbreaking quest for verifiable information. Ironically, but perhaps not surprisingly, she found almost nothing directly from the women who laid the foundation for TIME’s journalistic integrity, but rather gleaned their stories through second-hand accounts from their male colleagues. Through considered selection and recombination of these questionable materials, Moran composes a structuring narrative for Against the Best Possible Sources, that in its inherent subjectivity raises questions about an archive’s ability to contain any measure of historical truth.

Moran’s  self-professed “preoccupation with the subjectivity of facts” owes much to artists who have mined archives or mobilized archival structures to uncover lost historical information, but more importantly to investigate how we represent, remember, and evaluate history. These artists’ work projects provide an important context for appreciating Elizabeth Moran’s research-based practice. One of the most important is the Lebanese-born contemporary artist Walid Raad. Born in Chbanieh, Lebanon in 1967, raised until the age of 16 in East Beirut, Raad grew up in a country ravaged by successive civil wars (1975-1991). His work in photography, performance, video, collage, and performance is highly informed by his experience growing up during the wars, and the socioeconomic and military policies that came afterwards. He’s best known for his long-term project, The Atlas Group (1989-2004): a fictional foundation—and archival repository—established to house, preserve, and contextualize a variety of documents and images related to the contemporary history of Lebanon, specifically the civil wars. In 2007,  The Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin hosted the first large-scale solo exhibition of the Atlas Group works. Its catalog, The Atlas Group (1989-2004): A Project by Walid Raad, edited by Kassandra Nakas and Britta Schmitz, is included in the supplementary materials to Moran’s exhibition on the first floor of featured items in the Hamon Arts Library.

As the preface to the catalog explains, Raad’s work focuses on questions of subjectivity and personal experience, and how those individual memories might relate to the larger telling or fabrication of history.1 In her curatorial essay, “Not a Search for Truth,” Britta Schmitz underscores Raad’s starting premise that history isn’t constituted by clearly defined artifacts. She quotes Raad, “On the contrary, ‘The Lebanese Civil War’ is constituted by and through various actions, situations, people, and accounts.”2 The lack of an official account of what happened in the civil wars is compounded by the fact that until recently, the Lebanese government has surpassed any remembrance of the war, so its official truth has never entered public discourse, and any retelling of the stories are complicated by contemporary military and socioeconomic conditions in the Middle East.3

Taking a step back, for those who are not familiar with the complexities of the Lebanese civil wars, it is important to establish a baseline understanding of recent Lebanese history, however limited it might be in providing a structure to comprehend it. I admit here, that I am utterly outside of my breadth. My research to better understand the conflict sent me down rabbit holes trying to determine what I could understand to be fact. Events cited in one article as generally established truths, sometimes seemed impossible to back up—which is Raad’s point. In 1975, violence erupted between Maronite Christians and Palestinians as well as between Shiite and Sunni Muslim groups against a backdrop of a country deeply divided along religious and ethnic lines. As the war progressed, the fragile political system in the country (which was rooted in a French colonial agreement) fractured further along religious and ethnic lines, by some estimates into 186 different warring factions.4 How could any sense of a unified historical clarity ever come about from so many conflicting perspectives—when the number of reported casualties of the war varies by tens of thousands. Ostensibly, the wars ended in 1989 with the Ta’if Accord. The agreement established three key points – a modified system of the sectarian division of power that had been so tenuous before the war, the eventual passing of an amnesty law pardoning all political crimes up to that point, and the disarming of all militia groups with the exception of the Hezbollah in 1991.5

Unlike Moran, who worked within a preexisting archive of material, Raad develops his own—leaning on the public’s understanding of an archive as a politically neutral space of unquestionable historic authority. However, the content of the documents contained within the Atlas Group archive reflect the impossibility of recording historic events. Each document—photo albums, videos, recorded events—are identified as donations to the archive by a particular person (real or imaginary), and resemble private materials that one might add to a public historic collection. However, like the foundation that contains them, the documents are imaginary, and don’t provide many objective data points for viewers to piece together the narrative of the Lebanese Civil War. When looking at the extensive body of work contained within the Atlas Group archive, it becomes clear that none of the documents are totally fabricated. Raad appropriates and mediates primary source materials as well as his own photography to fit into his complex web of characters, stories and performances. His works deliberately confuse the real and the imaginary not to trick viewers, but in service of creating meaning. They combine details drawn from many sources, such that they become documents of collective memory rather than from the individual that they’re attributed to. In doing so, the fictional archive acknowledges a multiplicity of voices and the unreliability of memory than any single narration of history would be able to do.

An early project of The Atlas Group, Notebook Volume 72: Missing Lebanese Wars (1989/1998) is often cited as a particularly good example of the way that Raad uses fictionalized archival materials to interrogate the truth-making capacities of any archive. One of many documents attributed to an esteemed, but fictional historian, Dr. Fadl Fakhouri, it describes, in the form of a personal journal entry, an outing with fellow historians at the horse-races. Rather than wagering on which horse would win, these historians—identified as representatives from several religious or sociopolitical groups—put their money on “how many fractions of a second before or after the horse crossed the finish line—the photographer would expose his frame.”6 Here, all legitimate sources of information fail to provide indisputable truth. The photo of the racehorse, was taken from the Beirut-based daily newspaper, An-Nahar, but from many years after the war. These historians, supposed arbiters of history, place bets on the degree to which a photograph proves unable to represent an event or provide concrete, visible proof, and none of them guess the exact number. The winner of the race—or the events of history—become secondary to the efforts to approximate what happened.7 The Atlas Group project, as Nakas and Schmitz discuss in detail, uses appropriation and narrative to present historical truth as something constructed by many, rather than apprehended by a powerful few.

The tenuous peace that followed the Lebanese civil wars, one that divided power between the nation’s eighteen recognized religious sects, and according to the New York Times “effectively institutionalize[d] corruption, with each group able to dole out government jobs, contracts, favors, and social services to its followers,” reached a breaking point on October 17 of this year.8 Massive protests broke out following a proposed tax on voice over internet protocol use, a feature used by various messaging applications like WhatsApp, which is the primary mode of communication for most citizens.9 Though the tax was repealed, the backlash against a leadership bent on exploiting sectarian divides to hold on to power has continued. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese citizens, from every background and class, are demanding new leadership, and an end to the cronyism and corruption that has ruled the country since the alongside its political legacy. Walid Raad’s Atlas Group works deserve a revisiting in light of these major societal changes.

– Allison Klion, Hawn Gallery Project Manager

1. [Kassandra Nakas, and Britta Schmitz, preface to The Atlas Group (1989-2004): a project by Walid Raad, edited by Kassandra Nakas and Britta Schmitz (Köln: Buchhandlung Walther König, 2005), 39.]

2. [Britta Schmitz, “Not a Search for Truth,” The Atlas Group (1989-2004): a project by Walid Raad, by Kassandra Nakas, Britta Schmitz, and Walid Raad (Köln: Buchhandlung Walther König, 2005) 41.]

3. [Ibid., 42.]

4. [Sandra Mackey, Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), 119.]

5. [“The Lebanese Civil War and the Taif Agreement,”Hassan Krayem, American University of Beirut Libraries, http://ddc.aub.edu.lb/projects/pspa/conflict-resolution.html (accessed December 6, 2019).]

6. [Schmitz, “Not a Search for Truth,” 43.]

7. [Ibid..]

8. [Vivian Yee and Hwaida Saad, “To Make Sense of Lebanon’s Protests, Follow the Garbage,” The New York Times, December 3, 2019.https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/03/world/middleeast/lebanon-protests-corruption.html (accessed December 6, 2019). ]

9. [Tala Ramadan, “Lebanon’s revolution on its 39th day: An ongoing momentum,”An Nahar, November 24, 2019. https://en.annahar.com/article/1073785-lebanons-revolution-on-its-39th-day-an-ongoing-momentum (accessed December 6, 2019). ]

Featured image: “Very Fast (Flying Horse),” by Mark Smith is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Dan Wingren as professor at SMU

The Jerry Bywaters Special Collections at SMU has a good archive of Wingren’s materials, which is so appropriate considering that he graduated from SMU, taught at SMU, and he was greatly admired by Bywaters. However, Wingren’s SMU connections are a small part of his distinguished career as an excellent painter and as a highly respected professor of art and art history.  Dan Wingren was one of my professors at SMU in the mid-1970s.  By that time he had an extensive resume of major exhibitions of his paintings, of teaching at important museums and universities, and of numerous publications and critical reviews of his art. However, Wingren was modestly quiet about his accomplishments. 

As a graduate student in art history, I was fortunate to have Wingren as a professor of art history when I took his courses on the history of photography and surveys of modern art. He was a demanding professor who challenged his students to think critically about art and art history. He asked me to view art “as though I had no eyelids,” admonishing me to not only look closely at art, but more importantly to look critically, without preconceived notions or assumptions. Wingren’s courses required memorization of details of names of artists, titles, and dates of artworks, as well as the larger more substantive understanding of stylistic analysis, cultural context, and visual literacy. I found his courses difficult, but highly rewarding. I admired Wingren for pushing me to move from art appreciation to connoisseurship, and I credit him for beautifully preparing me for my own successful career as an art history professor, a museum educator, and a museum director. 

Blog post courtesy of Francine Carraro, Ph.D., Retired Museum Director.

Image credit: Dan Wingren, photograph by Beau and Martha Mood, San Antonio, Texas; Gift of Dianne Schlies and courtesy of the Dan Wingren Collection, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University. 

Exhibition, Dan Wingren: The Image and Magic, on the 2nd floor, Hamon, continues to May 31, 2021.

A deeper dive into archival practice and art

In some ways one could argue that every artwork is an archive in the sense that the accumulated knowledge of the artist is inherently embedded within the material of the work itself, both tangible or intangible. Another way to think about it might be in terms of the idea of a trace: some artists prefer to lay bare the evidence of their process–examples include visible erasures or corrections–such that the work itself becomes an archive of its own making. However, these two examples of process are largely self-contained and self-reflective; the archival qualities of the artwork are incidental or implied, but not the primary source material for the work, nor the primary content.

Elizabeth Moran, whose current exhibition at the Hawn Gallery, “Against the Best Possible Sources,” derives directly from the artist’s research at the TIME, Inc. corporate archives, is one of many artists whose practice reflects what the art historian, Hal Foster, broadly defined as an archival impulse. Artists working in this archival manner, according to Foster, “seek to make historical information, often lost or displaced, physically present.” He adds that they, “elaborate on the found image, object, and text, and favor the installation format as they do so.”1

To accompany Elizabeth Moran’s exhibition, I assembled a small selection of books from the Hamon Arts Library’s collection that offer further context on the installation. The selection offers a starting point for deeper research into archival practice–presenting canonical, theoretical texts and short essays on the archival practices of a variety of artists. Two significant exhibition catalogues, Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, and Deep Storage: Collecting, Storing, and Archiving in Art, seek to document the importance of collecting, archiving and storing in artistic practice. As such, they offer useful introductions in the elusive effort to define archival and research-based practices in contemporary art. These two exhibitions feature work by many artists using archival materials or structures in their practice. I’ve included an additional text, The Archive, which highlights a few of these artists as well. They will be the focus of an upcoming blog post.

The Archive. Edited by Charles Merewether. London: Whitechapel; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006.

This text is particularly useful as an overview of how critical and theoretical notions of the archive have changed over time. It also offers brief introductions to several different strategies that artists have used as engagement with archival material. Essays included examine how the archive operates in various academic disciplines, including anthropology, critical theory, and history, and how these disciplines inform contemporary artistic practice. Artists highlighted are Christian Boltanski, Susan Hiller, Ilya Kabakov, Renée Green, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Walid Raad’s Atlas Group, both of whom will be discussed further in the next blog post.

Enwezor, Okwui. Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary ArtNew York, N.Y.: International Center of Photography. Göttingen: Steidl Publishers, 2008.

Organized by the late, renowned Nigerian scholar and curator, Okwui Enwezor, in 2008 at the International Center for Photography in New York, Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, is not only one of the most significant exhibitions on the ways contemporary artists have engaged with archival structures and archival materials,  but also serves as an exemplary model for the curator’s ideas about how exhibitions themselves are opportunities for interrogation and research. The exhibition, in other words, functioned as an extension of the archive itself. Because it was held at the ICP, Enwezor’s exhibition focuses on artists who use archival documents–specifically photographic archives–in their investigations of history, memory, identity, and loss, which is a marked contrast from the more expansive approach used by the curators in Deep Storage.

The exhibition included work by a geographically diverse group of artists, some of whom were not well known in the United States. While the artists in the exhibition use a broad range of strategies to investigate their particular areas of interest, Enwezor unites them through their shared focus on the role of photography and film as a documentary practice. Artists include Christian Boltanski, Tacita Dean, Stan Douglas, Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Jef Geys, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Craigie Horsfield, Lamia Joreige, Zoe Leonard, Sherrie Levine, Ilán Lieberman, Glenn Ligon, Robert Morris, Walid Raad, Thomas Ruff, Anri Sala, Fazal Sheikh, Lorna Simpson, Eyal Sivan, Vivan Sundaram, Nomeda and Gediminas Urbona, and Andy Warhol.

Deep Storage: Collecting, Storing, and Archiving in Art. Edited by Ingrid Schaffner and Matthias Winzen. Munich; New York: Prestel, 1998.

Like Archive Fever, Deep Storage is a massive exhibition catalogue that provides a highly useful overview of contemporary archival practice, yet its focus is quite different. Deep Storage attempts to investigate artists’ use of not only archival structures and materials, but also the process of collecting and storage as related to museum practice. However, it shies away from arguing for a comprehensive definition. The curators divide their strategy into four distinct sites of investigation into storage: the storeroom/museum, the archive/library, the artist’s studio, and the data-space.  As a result, the exhibition covers a broad range of mediums and modes of working from over forty different artists.

For this exhibition the concept of storing information and material is the central point that unites the diverse group of artists. Organized alphabetically like an encyclopedia, it features brief essays on all participating artists, which serves as a solid starting point for deeper research.

  1. Hal Foster, “An Archival Impulse,” October 110 (Autumn, 2004): 4 http://www.jstor.org/stable/3397555.

Book title selection and blog post by Allison Klion, Hawn Gallery Project Manager.

Remembering Dan Wingren 

I met Dan Wingren in 1980. That’s when I began modeling for his and other classes at the Meadows School of the Arts. I was also attending a Dallas community college, knocking off prerequisites for some sort of humanities degree. In 1986, I realized I wanted to teach studio art. So I quit modeling and attended UTD, got a bachelor’s degree, then applied to and got into SMU’s MFA program.  

Larry Scholder, who chaired the Meadows studio art department at the time, assigned me to Dan, and for two years I was his teaching assistant. This anecdote illustrates the auspicious start to our partnership: in January of 1988, Dan and I met for lunch in the design studio to discuss the upcoming classes. We sat next to one another at one of those long tables, opened our identical paper lunch sacks, pulled out our identical lunches (peanut butter and raisins on whole wheat and a red delicious apple) and we cut our apples with our identical Swiss Army knives, which we discovered were gifts to us on our recent identical birthdays. We had a good laugh over all that. 

Dan stood out in the Meadows School because, of all the teachers there at that time, he seemed to have the fewest prejudices. His knowledge was so vast that he effortlessly found significance in virtually every type of art. His highly structured demos, his presentations, and his gallery talks offered students new ways of thinking – as most teachers will. But Dan’s approach was very different. He looked at art from several angles that not only included the expected formal and stylistic aspects, and the history, but relative literature, music, politics, ethics, alchemy and more. 

In the summer of 1997, I learned I’d soon be teaching college level 2-Dimensional Design in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I still live. Struck with fear, I called Dan. He assured me that I’d find my own way. And he was right. I did. That course became the most cherished of my teaching career.  

When I envision Dan now I see his broad toothy smile, suspenders against a clean crisp shirt, the way he stood tall with his hands in his pockets, head held back a bit as he thought, particular moments teaching together in the design studio, and the final years of his life when he was undergoing treatment yet managed to keep his keen sense of humor—and so my memory of him returns to that smile.   

I’d like to leave you all with something Dan said during one of my graduate committee meetings. Exasperated, I asked why it was so important to “draw from nature.” Dan replied, “Because the human mind can be so tedious and nature never is.” 

Image: Dianne Schlies, Strength/Delicacy Contrast/SubtletyDan Wingren during lecture demonstration, 1988, ballpoint pen on stained paper, 12” x 9”. 

Courtesy of Dianne Schlies.

Exhibition, Dan Wingren: The Image and Magic, on 2nd floor, Hamon continues to May 31, 2021. 

Dan Wingren: The Wizard

Mary Vernon, professor emerita of art, SMU, was a colleague of Dan Wingren. As such, she contributes this blog piece on the artist and further commentary in the exhibition, Dan Wingren: The Image and Magic, on view at the Hamon Arts Library, 2nd floor, until May 31, 2021. 


“My head is somewhere near the intersection of the fields of art, history, psychology, engineering, and religion.”
Dan Wingren, (Daily Campus, Southern Methodist University, June 21, 1988). 

One of our names for Dan was The Wizard. Dan Wingren – the experimenter, the rationalist, and the reserved man of wisdom, seemed to stay ahead of us, his colleagues. His self-assurance seemed mixed with introversion. In his handsome loft on lower Greenville Avenue (the whole top floor of a commercial building), he painted and developed photographs, listened to music on the finest audio system, and built his own computer as soon as the components were available. Dan wanted to know things, and the reasons behind the things, all the way down to first causes. 

He was particularly kind to me, a true gift, since he suffered no fools lightly. He grasped that my cluelessness was well-intentioned, and he saw over my head to the work I could do as a colleague. His fierce protection of his privacy was not simply a foible of character, but rather the survival strategy of a gay man in the mid-20th Century. He loved his partner Hal, but they lived, apparently, in separate houses. They traveled, and talked and dined together, watched the stars through a telescope in Hal’s backyard, and never spoke of their lives to the ordinary world. 

Dan Wingren’s devoted students, hundreds of them, could speak of his insightful lectures and critiques, his remarkable knowledge and his advice. He valued honesty more than empathy, and, in that way, clung to an old model of the university teacher. In many of the artists he taught, one can see the influence of Dan’s way of thinking and of painting. He could be kind, as he was to me, or he could show a haughty impulsivity, a state in which concepts ruled and people suffered.

How he saw himself I will never know. He knew he was a gifted researcher in the history and workings of design. He held to a rationalist and scientific understanding of ideas, and eschewed mysticism. He loved to explore the oddities of Manly Palmer Hall or Madame Blavatsky, more because they shed light on our taste for murky quackery than because he might agree with them. Yet he respected shamans, declaring them to be the real thing. It is in his painting that I understand him rather than in his other scholarship. Wingren’s compositions draw from the models of the 1930s – the salient form is a near-central block that sails or floats among a rectangular set of proposals. The lovely news in a Wingren painting is connected to the salient block – to its being more saturated in color than other forms or distinguished by strong contrast of light against dark. Even when Dan Wingren employed photographs as prompts for his paintings, his compositional choices remained. His photo-based paintings were demonstrations of what paint could do even more than they were comments upon a modern way of seeing. Each painting grew as an adjustment of geometric plot, practiced tricks of illusion, and exact observation of color. Dan Wingren had mastered, as well, the taut but flexible surface of properly prepared canvas, its leanings toward opaque paint and a texture of right angles.  

Dan Wingren’s instinct was to turn to general or popular culture, fleeing elitism. He found the latter, by way of contradiction, both silly and weak, and way too powerful. Where could we find the vital and new ideas? In the vernacular and in science. In his last days, while he made studies of fractal geometry and continued to do very fine drawings.

Blog post: Mary Vernon, professor emerita of art, Southern Methodist University
Image: Photograph, Dan Wingren in his studio on lower Greenville Avenue, c. 1970s, Gift, Mary Vernon

Courtesy of the Dan Wingren Collection, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University. 

Hawn Gallery presents Elizabeth Moran: Against the Best Possible Sources opening Sept. 6

Guided by a preoccupation with the subjectivity of facts, Elizabeth Moran uses photography, text, sound, and other forms of recorded documentation to examine the reliability of information and how evidence is often far from evident. Against the Best Possible Sources is part of an ongoing project including extensive research of the TIME, Inc. corporate archive and an investigation of the earliest history of the first professional fact-checkers, a position invented by the fledgling company in 1923 and held exclusively by women until 1971.

Reacting against the sensationalized, tabloid journalism of the era, TIME originally advertised their reporting as “written after the most exhaustive scrutiny of news-sources” with confirmed, reliable facts as its primary innovation and product. Indeed founders Henry Luce and Briton Hadden originally considered naming the weekly news magazine Facts. However this “exhaustive scrutiny” was considered women’s work from its inception. Early fact-checking manuals include instructions that the checkers must be blonde, must wear specific gloves depending on the time of year, must wear hat pins under 6-inches in length, and “must maintain their domestic list of chores.”

Continue reading “Hawn Gallery presents Elizabeth Moran: Against the Best Possible Sources opening Sept. 6”

On view: Dan Wingren: The Image and Magic, August 19, 2019 – May 31, 2021

Dan C. Wingren, Jr. was born in Dallas, Texas in 1923.  His family moved to a small farm outside of Irving, Texas in the 1930s during his second year in grade school; Wingren graduated from Irving High School in 1940.  During World War II, he served in the army and was stationed in the South Pacific (New Guinea, New Britain, Philippines) and Japan (Tokyo, Yokohama).  After military service, Wingren received a Bachelor of Arts degree in art in 1947 from Southern Methodist University (SMU) where he served as a lecturer from 1946 to 1947.  While at SMU, he studied painting with Jerry Bywaters who was well-known as an artist and director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (now the Dallas Museum of Art).  He took additional classes at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts School with Bywaters and Otis Dozier, both well-established Texas regionalists artists.  During the summer of 1947, Wingren traveled to Alpine, Texas to continue his studies with Dozier at Sul Ross State Teachers College, whose art department sponsored the successful “Alpine Art Colony” summer sessions taught by well-known regionalist artists.  Also in 1947, he executed a serigraph of a color print for the portfolio XTOL by Octavio Medellin that was published by the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.  

Wingren received his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1949 from the University of Iowa where he studied with Mauricio Lasansky (printmaker), Hal Lotterman (painter), James Lechay (painter), and Byron Burford (painter).  He stayed an extra year to work on a Ph.D under German-born art historian, William S. Heckscher (degree not completed).  In 1950, Wingren joined the faculty at the University of Texas in Austin as an instructor and later, in 1955, promoted to an assistant professor. He taught life drawing and creative design until 1958.  In the mid-1950’s, Wingren traveled to Europe and sketched images of towns and villages in France and Italy.  In 1958, he was appointed director of the San Antonio Art Institute and taught painting at the McNay Art Museum (associated with the San Antonio Art Institute) until May 1961.  He taught at Trinity University as a guest lecturer in the fall semester in 1961.  Wingren moved back to Dallas in May 1962 to paint full time; in the fall of that year he taught a design class at SMU.  In 1963 and 1964, Wingren taught drawing and composition and oil painting at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts School and, in 1965, he began teaching full time in the art department at SMU. He remained at the university until he retired in 1991. In 1971, Wingren was appointed Professor of Art; from 1969 – 1971 he served as Associate Chairman of the Division of Fine Arts.  During his tenure at SMU, Wingren taught classes in art history (19th and 20th Century), design, drawing and painting, and also conducted seminars on contemporary art topics. 

Wingren exhibited his work extensively in Texas during the 1950s and 1960s by way of art museum exhibitions and independent organizations, including the Texas Watercolor Society and the Texas Fine Arts Association. His work was accepted into numerous Texas exhibitions in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. In 1952, his oil painting, Explorer, received the $1000 State Fair of Texas Purchase Prize at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.  Nationally, his work was accepted into shows at the Carnegie Institute, Denver Art Museum, Knoedler Galleries, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of Fine Arts, and the Walker Art Center. In 1955, Wingren was highlighted in the February issue of Art in America, which featured articles on ‘New Talent in the USA.’  He was recognized in other art journals during the 1950s, including Carnegie Magazine, Art News, and Arts.  Wingren received the Catherwood Foundation Traveling Fellowship in 1957, which allowed him to travel through Europe and continue his art studies for a year. In 1959, Wingren, along with James Boynton and Paul Maxwell, both of Houston, Texas, exhibited their work at the Galerie du Colisée in Paris. The show was organized by Wingren’s long-time art dealer, Meredith Long, in Houston. In the late 1950s, Wingren’s painting, Magician’s Cabinet, was purchased by Bernard Dorival, director of the Musée nationale d’art moderne in Paris (now at the Centre Pompidou), for the museum’s collection.   

Wingren continued to show his work throughout Texas during the 1960s.  In addition, he gave lectures on art and art history, and taught drawing, composition, and painting at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.  In 1966 he was honored with a one-man show, a retrospective of his work completed since 1958, at the Pollock Galleries, then located in SMU’s Owen Fine Arts Center.  He continued to show his work in faculty shows throughout his career at SMU. In 1968, his work was included in the exhibition, The Sphere of Art in Texas, held at the HemisFair in San Antonio; and in 1979, he was one of nine artists represented in the book The Texas Gulf Coast, published by Texas A & M University Press. 

In the mid-1970s, Wingren, collaborated with art professor and colleague, Mary Vernon (Professor of Art, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor at SMU), in teaching First-Year Design for all art majors. They later concentrated on advanced design classes for students during a time when the art department was experiencing tremendous growth.  During this period, he continued with his personal art work and made drawings that focused on photo-based imagery. Many of these drawings are part of the works on paper collection in the Pollock Gallery at SMU.  Wingren was also known to be intrigued with computer technology and in the 1970s built his own computer from kits and components at a time when personal computers were first being developed. He later commented “My head is somewhere near the intersection of the fields of art, history, psychology, engineering, and religion” (Daily Campus, Southern Methodist University, June 21, 1988, 4).  In 1979, his manuscript, Design and the Visual Image, failed to find a publisher because reviewers found the material too advanced for the introductory college student and more appropriate for professional journals. 

During the 1980s, Wingren continued to give lectures at the Dallas Museum of Art and to participate in gallery and museum exhibitions.  In 1988, he was part of the exhibition, SMU Salon, held at the Crescent Hotel in Dallas that included work by three generations of SMU art faculty, students, alumni, and distinguished guest professors. The work was auctioned and the proceeds benefited the Meadows School of the Arts scholarship fund. In the same year, Wingren was awarded the Meadows Distinguished Teaching Professorship (1988 – 1989) by Eugene Bonelli, Dean, Meadows School of the Arts. The award carried a $5,000 cash prize and an additional $5,000 in professional support. By this time his work had been featured in sixteen one-person shows since 1952, mainly in Houston, Paris, and New York. 

Seven years after he retired from SMU, Wingren died in Dallas on December 31, 1998, at 75 years of age. A year later, a large collection of his drawings was donated to the Pollock Gallery at SMU. In 2006, his work was included in the exhibition, Shared Vision: Texas Artists then & Now at the Arlington Museum of Art, Arlington, Texas. The emphasis of the show was to look back and honor artists who had influenced contemporary Texas artists. Wingren’s work is located in numerous Texas museums and private collections, including the Archer M. Huntington Museum (Austin), Dallas Museum of Art, Witte Museum (San Antonio), McNay Museum (San Antonio), Texas Instruments (Dallas), First National Bank (Fort Worth), and Bank of the Southwest (Houston). 

Dan Wingren: The Image and Magic is on view on the 2nd floor, Hamon Arts Library from August 19, 2019-May 31, 2021.

In view of the fragile nature of the works of art shown in this exhibition, reproductions of the originals are exhibited. Photographs and reproductions not from Bywaters Special Collections are noted in credit information. 

Blog post: Ellen Buie Niewyk, Curator, Bywaters Special Collections.

Image: Dan Wingren, Untitled, oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches; Gift of Mary Vernon.
Courtesy of the Dan Wingren Collection, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.
Work painted in the 1980s in the SMU painting studio as a class demonstration. 


Hawn Gallery presents: Pipes on Paper: the Wallmann Collection of Books on the Organ opening July 15

In Western music, more books have been written on the organ than any other instrument. This summer exhibition, Pipes on Paper, open on Monday, July 15, highlights a selection of books on this grand and artful instrument from the James L. Wallmann Collection. In sum, it offers a survey from 1698 to 1923 on the history of organs and organbuilding. These twenty-four books not only offer a glimpse into the technical innovations of the organ during these centuries, but also a view of the instrument’s variety across different regions and cultures.

The earliest book is Andreas Werckmeister’s treatise on organ testing, a work known to J. S. Bach. L’art du facteur d’orgues (“The art of the organbuilder”) (1766–78) by François Bedos de Celles, a French Benedictine monk, is the most magnificent book on the organ ever published and one that, throughout history, has helped many organbuilders build organs.

Other titles on display from the 1700s and 1800s describe organs and organbuilding in their diverse array in Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Italy, and the United States. Books from nineteenth-century England by F. H. Sutton, John Norbury, and Arthur George Hill illustrate English and continental organ cases. The most recent publications on display are two pamphlets from 1923, which represent two very different movements in the organ world – a little flyer on a proposed restoration of Arp Schnitger’s 1693 organ in Hamburg and one of the few surviving copies of a booklet from Estey Organ Co. promoting its innovative New luminous stop console.

James L. Wallmann has lived in the Dallas area since 2006. He has degrees in music and law from Brigham Young University and Georgetown University, respectively; and has been collecting books on the organ for almost fifty years. Mr. Wallmann’s collection contains over 3,000 books and pamphlets with an emphasis in these five areas: important books on organbuilding and the history of the organ; books in Dutch; books about Gottfried Silbermann and his organs; reference books and collected works about the organ; and rare and unusual books about the organ.

Pipes on Paper: the Wallmann Collection of Books on the Organ is on view July 15 – August 2 at the Hawn Gallery, located inside the Hamon Arts Library on SMU campus. The Library is open during summer hours, Monday through Friday, 8 am – 5 pm, and closed weekends. For more information, please contact Hawn Gallery at hawngallery@smu.edu or 214-768-1383.

Featured image: Old organ at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, illustration from John Norbury (1824–1911), The box of whistles | an illustrated book on organ cases: with notes on organs at home and abroad. London: Bradbury, Agnew, & Co., 1877.