Chance encounter leads to 3D delight

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Three Alberto Giacommetti pieces at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

Life is all about finding unexpected moments, and in those moments, finding gems that educate, inform and delight.

One such unexpected moment happened during a trip to Dallas for the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association convention. Normally, the days are spent shepherding the students from one contest to another, judging or volunteering, or attending workshops. However, when Haley Bruyn, one of the Lamar students, went looking for a feature story in the arts district, she ran into Melissa Durkee, registrar of the Nasher Sculpture Center. One thing led to another, and the University Press contingent found itself at the museum for a flying visit.

And what a treat it was. My first thought was that the collection was housed in a stunning building, perfectly constructed to show off the art. It reminded me of the Menil Collection in Houston, so I was not surprised to find that both buildings were designed by architect Renzo Piano.

The grounds were beautiful and housed Richard Serra’s “My Curves Are Not Mad” and George Segal’s “Rush Hour,” as well as a smoke house by Ann Veronica Janssens. The smoke house is a contained room filled with fog such as one finds in a theater production of Macbeth or Hound of the Baskervilles. But where in the theater one finds the smoke wafting across the floor, the smoke room is completely full, so that the moment one entered, one is immediately cast adrift from all surroundings. Even an outstretched hand is invisible. I chose not to stray too far from where I presumed the door was, although after a few steps and turns I was not exactly sure where it was.

The highlight of the visit was to be found in one room. It is rare to find so many sculptures by so many of my favorite artists in one place. From Naum Gabo’s “Linear Construction in Space No. 1 (Variation)” to David Smith’s “The Forest” to works by Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacommetti, Pablo Picasso and Jean Arp, there was something exciting at every turn.

The plaster version of Constantin Brancusi’s “The Kiss” was a delight, made even more beautiful by the sun shining through the ceiling’s grid to create a wonderful shadow on the sculpture.

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Willem de Kooning’s “Clamdigger.”

I was especially fascinated by Willem de Kooning’s “Clamdigger.” As a big fan of what I consider to be the best of the Abstract Expressionist painters, seeing how easily his style transfers from canvas to 3D was a treat. The thick textured sculpture is dynamic and visually appealing.

Seeing a group of Giacommetti’s is never a disappointment. From the large “Diego in a Cloak” to the tiny “Two Figurines,” the Swiss artist’s heavily textured, elongated figures are both beautiful and, in their isolation, wistful — and always endlessly enticing.

There are so many more marvels in that one room, including Matisse’s delicate “Madeline” and Picasso’s “Head of a Woman” (also called “Head of Jacqueline”).

The museum is built from Raymond and Nancy Nasher collection and features more than 300 pieces in its holdings, and its rotating exhibition means that every trip will feature new discoveries. A visit to the center’s website shows the wealth of fabulous sculptures that were not available to view in the brief visit.

I can’t wait to go back again and again. Next time, it won’t just be a side trip squeezed in to a heavy schedule. I can’t wait to be thrilled again.

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For information, visit www.nashersculpturecenter.org.

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