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Influence: Carlos Donjuan, Sedrick Huckaby, Marilyn Jolly at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center

Nothing Is What It Seems Anymore by Carlos Donjuan

Nothing Is What It Seems Anymore by Carlos Donjuan

Influence: Carlos Donjuan, Sedrick Huckaby, Marilyn Jolly
Oak Cliff Cultural Center
Through September 9, 2011

Influence: Carlos Donjuan, Sedrick Huckaby, Marilyn Jolly opened recently at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center and runs through September 9, 2011.

The show is aptly named; all three artists are “peddlers of influence” both as faculty members at University of Texas at Arlington and as busy exhibiting artists.

The Oak Cliff Cultural Center is a humming newcomer bringing cultural events of all kinds to the busy Jefferson Avenue retail neighborhood. The storefront Center has beautiful open gallery and performance spaces separated by food vendor Guillaumes’ Gourmet to Go with Chef Saul Williams III (opening soon!) and offices. The Jefferson side of the space is entirely plate glass bringing the neighborhood inside in a wonderful way. Next door to the also newly re-opened Texas Theatre, the Oak Cliff Cultural Center joins sisters Bath House, Latino, and South Dallas Cultural Centers, all managed by the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. Walking-friendly street-level art, music, dance, classes, food and drinks to go, or community events anyone?

Artist Sedrick Huckaby is familiar to many in the Dallas arts scene as a darned good figurative artist and chronicler of family life. He is also known for painting quilts – large sacramental paintings of quilts – that remind the viewer of childhood, grandmother, and love.

For this show, Huckaby shows us a different aspect of his work – as an assemblage artist. He has quite literally constructed his two pieces from scrap lumber and other objects and then adorned the works with paint, charcoal, and a textural substance that reminded me of a grey papier mache – like the saliva that hornets make their nests from.

All Things Work Together For the Good by Sedrick Huckaby

All Things Work Together For the Good by Sedrick Huckaby

Huckaby’s gargantuan standing piece, All Things Work Together For the Good, takes up the entirety of one of the three gallery walls floor to ceiling. This is an impactful, huge piece of art that shows beautifully against the warm red gallery wall. The piece is constructed primarily wood with some found-objects for punch. It is surprising to stand in front of it and notice that it reads as a piece of art about color – considering most of the wood is in its raw state.

In this piece, Huckaby uses color to punctuate – serving as both multiple focus points for your eyes as well as a roadmap on how to read the piece. Great slabs of creamy white catch your attention first, then bright red, but not long after you’re noticing a celadon green leading you to bright pink before the stormy blue-greys lead you to blacks. Only then are you free to notice the many wood-tones, the levels, the textures, and the construction left undisguised for anyone to see. Vice grips around three sides ground the piece and add to its glamorous lack of sophistication.

Spring Unbalances Me by Marilyn Jolly

Spring Unbalances Me by Marilyn Jolly

Marilyn Jolly has exhibited internationally for decades – her bio suggests this is an extremely accomplished and successful painter. She has contributed 6 paintings to the show – most are variations on a theme. Jolly paints with oils and she isn’t averse to painting in thick impasto. The series is done in baby blue, kiwi green and an occasional splash of peachy coral. It’s a really soothing cool color palette on a day where the thermometer reads 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Turns out these paintings are Jolly anticipating spring and her planting rituals, so I guess that cool feeling is an accurate reading.

I like the thick underpainting in her backgrounds. There’s a vague feeling that she started to tell a story, changed her mind, and instead told us this one. It’s slightly mysterious knowing there’s another thought underneath this bright silvery blue.

There are egg shapes in white and pink and black – some larger, some smaller. And a persistent wire frame vase-like shape in many of the works. You’ll notice that the shape looks familiar – I did too, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was until I read her Artist Statement. Then I totally understood the anticipation of spring in these paintings.

Maybe it was just the heat of the day, or the bubbly sophistication of the martini glass in Spring Unbalances Me, but these paintings made me thirsty for lemonade.

The only Jolly work that isn’t a part of the series is one of my favorites, Watching My Mind. This is a large painting in cool impasto blues and pinks with a dominant orange-red streak. The painting is grounded in a gorgeous pthalo blue striped across the bottom. In the upper left, a small rectangle has been affixed to the canvas and a red bird is painted on it. What really drew my eye was the application of a glittery substance – mica? – to thickly painted oval shapes. Stunning!

Nothing Is What It Seems Anymore by Carlos Donjuan

Nothing Is What It Seems Anymore by Carlos Donjuan

Carlos Donjuan is known to many around town as a part of the meme-changing group of street-artists, Sour Grapes. I am a huge fan of the collective works, but Carlos has a really great and distinctive solo talent as well.

Six of the paintings in the show are Carlos’. Some, like Nothing Is What It Seems Anymore, are painted on birch panels. The panels provide a wonderful warm ground tone, a subtle pattern, and a seriously smooth surface for taped lines. Donjuan has chosen this unusual surface on purpose and uses it to his full advantage – sometimes using a wash to allow the pattern to show through, other times leaving a section of the birch unpainted.

You’d expect a graffiti artist to be an airbrush expert, right? But Donjuan has a flawless technique whether he’s painting crisp clean straight lines with tape, airbrushing, painting careful layered washes or overdrawing with pencil, his work can be viewed nose-to-painting and it looks as good as it does from twenty feet.

His figurative works obliterate the faces of his subjects. You might find a baby with a solid red face, a dad with a leopard pattern, one of several faces covered with a wonderfully fussy striped pattern, or a runny blob of spray paint. I’ll leave it to you to interpret this feature, but the paintings are intriguing and memorable.

His Llama series (#s 2 and 3) are a more technique samplers. These are happy pictures with childlike cumulus cloud formations, brightly colored diamonds and smiling llamas. In Dylan, details like the little polka-dotted hands of the baby are delightful discoveries for the guest who really looks at the painting. If I were a children’s book author, Carlos Donjuan would be one of my first calls to reach out to an illustrator. In fact…

The prices are very reasonable on most of these works. Be sure to pick up the Artist Statement and pricing sheet available in the gallery. Enjoy!

Gallery space at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center

Gallery space at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center

About Kent Boyer

Kent Boyer is a Dallas-based writer, designer and lifelong learner. He practices neighborhood photography and is interested in using art to create community and promote social justice. Keep up with his work at

One response to “Influence: Carlos Donjuan, Sedrick Huckaby, Marilyn Jolly at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center”

  1. Cynthia says:

    A price list at a cultural center is incredibly objectionable! Exhibitions should be for cultural purposes only. Of course, artists sell works, but prices should not be listed.