Tom Orr: Walking the Tightrope
For nearly four decades, Tom Orr has brought an unending curiosity, commitment, and conviction to making art that speaks to its necessity. He has garnered attention for his grand site-specific public art installations in Japan and in his hometown of Dallas—with his wife, artist Frances Bagley, Wildlife Water Theater (White Rock Lake); International Terminal D (DFW Airport); and Intersected Passages (Love Field Airport Terminal Entrance). Orr brings the same virtuous handling of materials and sensitive response to the context and physical characteristics of the space to his indoor installations, such as Floating Mountain (University of Texas, Arlington); and with Bagley, the sets and costume design for the Nabucco (an opera by Verdi presented during Dallas Opera’s 50th Anniversary) and Performance/Art (a group exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art in 2009). No doubt, Orr can build anything.
When making his work—sculptures, installations and prints—Orr has always walked a tightrope, trying to find the balance, the right tension, between painting and sculpture; image and object; and abstraction and illusion. Another balance (and perhaps a more difficult one, because of Orr’s technical prowess), is the right balance between execution and conceptual ideas. Being off balance could lead to the perilous precipice of preciousness, which is an endgame.
But with Tightrope, Orr’s thoughtfully edited and installed second solo show of recent work at Barry Whistler Gallery (extended through October 24, 2015), Orr has found his balance, the right tension. If there ever was a precipice, it seems far behind him.