Special “Eye” to Watch
June Mattingly // contributing art writer

The Cowboy Stadium Art Program,
one of the most ambitious public
art programs in the world - Part I

The Art Program was brilliantly envisioned and directed through the commitment of the owner
of the Cowboys Jerry Jones, his totally involved wife Gene and supportive family members;
their dream to create a “powerful” art and architectural “icon” has become a reality, a
stadium for the 21st century! Unlike art collections hidden away in museums, in gratitude
to the Joneses, the Cowboy Stadium privately-funded Art Program is accessible and
appealing not exclusively to around-the-world fans of sporting and live entertainment
events but also to those who appreciate the finest in architecture, art, design,
engineering and technology.

“From top to bottom, we’re taking a whole new approach to what a national sports arena
can be, Jerry says, “Cowboys Stadium isn’t just a place to go see the game or a concert, it’s
an experience you can share with your family and your community. That will include what
a lot of people wouldn’t anticipate seeing at a stadium, like contemporary art.”

“Football is full of the unexpected and the spontaneous; it can turn two strangers into friends.
Art has the power to do that, too, to get people talking, and looking, and interacting. It’s not
just about what you see on the field or on the wall; it’s about creating exciting experiences.”

Many of the 21 world class permanent art installations are by international artists whose
paintings, sculptures and installations also reside in the Dallas Museum of Art. To celebrate
the 45th Super Bowl (2011) the Museum organized a very well-received exhibit of art in
their collection by 15 of these artists, curated by  Charlie Wylie

An art advisory firm out of San Francisco and an advisory council consisting of local
contemporary art collectors and museum curators assisted. Under these professionals’
guidance on the choice of the artists special public spaces were transformed into
impossible-to-forget public art on a scale unimaginable anywhere else but the
$1.2 billion Cowboy Stadium. To quote Gene, “We’re breathing new life into a
tradition that extends back to Greeks and Romans, who integrated the art of
their time in stadiums where the best athletes gathered to compete.”
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Left: Trenton Hancock (Texan) Good Vegan Progression #2, 2005, mixed media on felt, 129 x 170 inches,
future gift to Dallas Museum of Art. Right: “From a Legend to a Choir, 2009, vinyl print, 40 x 98 feet 6 inches,
photo courtesy Dallas Cowboys
The “dense work” in Trenton’s vibrantly colored collage “stops visitors in their tracks. Its
screaming colors are an eyeful and not for the faint-hearted… his “flower-filled
setting…sprawling crazy quilt” is full of complex symbolism as he reworks Biblical
stories he learned as a child at home referring to the saga of the “devious” Vegans
and “harmless” Mounds. “It’s figures striped figures recall jailhouse garb…some are
headless lumps and others look more like animals than human beings, with a walrus, f
our-eyed rooster, and other mutants.”

This 36-year old Houstonian’s achievements include the 2002 and 2000 competitive
Whitney Biennial and the Whitney owns his art. Solo exhibitions of his were mounted
at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum.
In 2007 he won the $50,000 prize from the Studio Museum Harlem in New York.

The selection of the art for the two articles shows a cross-section of nationalities,
mediums, and styles characteristic of the art “united by its boldness, vigor and
resolve; its capacity to not only hold its own in a crowd, but the power to transform
massive public spaces into impossible-to-mistake locations where visitors from all over
the world come together.”  

This art collection is of such significance that Rizzoli New York recently published a major
beautifully illustrated hardcover book about it.
Left: Franz Ackermann (German), My "Ready Now", 2006, oil on canvas, 106 1/2 x 82 3/4 inches, future
gift to the Dallas Museum of Art Collection. Right: “Coming Home and (Meet Me) At the Waterfall,”
2009, acrylic on wall, photo courtesy Dallas Cowboys
Franz’s “two gigantic murals started off as recollections of his journey from his home town,
Berlin to the North Texas area, where he did even more sightseeing. He then made many
drawings, watercolors and paintings, all based on what he had seen. To translate these
studies to the walls of the stadium he used projectors and a crew of eight assistants, all
artists in their own right.”

In sheer numbers and size this is the most sophisticated technically advanced
entertainment venue in the world - a 3 million square foot structure on 140 acres
of land. Features include: expandable seating for up to 100,000 and 300 luxury
private suites, the world’s largest HDTV board, 3,500 television monitors, expansive
retractable roof and retractable end zone doors, canted glass walls and polished
marble floors, requiring 6,000 employees on an event day
Left: Matthew Ritchie (English), “The Idea of Cities,” 1998, oil and marker on canvas, 82 × 134 inches, future
gift to the Dallas Museum of Art. Right: “Line of Play,” 2009, powder coated aluminum, vinyl and acrylic,
East Wall, West Wall: 30 x 20 feet, located in Main Concourse Club, Entry K, photo courtesy Dallas Cowboys
The art is located in the highest pedestrian traffic areas such as ramps that connect
seating decks (which are 22 x 70 feet and 39 x 32 feet in length to give an idea of scale)
, four principal main entries, on two monumental staircases, on the walls of the private
Club the size of several large hotel lobbies on multiple levels, on huge walls above the
concession centers, and wrapping around large stadium walls, and much visible from
stadium seats.

For inspiration and to preserve a unifying thread between the state-of-the-art stadium
and the art itself, artists were invited to visit during construction to get acclimated to
the designed architectural landscape, the monumental scale of the building, the
lovely quality of the light and the distinctness of their individual areas.

My enthusiastic, well-informed guide, Phil Whitfield, the “official Stadium ambassador”
who started as a security guard for the Joneses 18 years ago worked side by side with
the “art stars” at work to escort them from their hotels and the airport. “I love art, but
didn’t before. I look at it differently now. I think about getting others, young kids, to
think outside the box. Take graffiti, I want to tell kids, ‘hey, don’t mess that up, make
something nice.’”
Mel Bochner, “Win!,” 2009, acrylic on wall, 38 feet 2 inches by 33 feet 3 inches, Northeast
Monumental Staircase, site-specific commission, photo courtesy Dallas Cowboys
Mel Bochner “uses words in the same way that a painter uses colors – to get viewers to see
subtle differences between similar things…’Win’ begins simply, with the word for what
every fan wants his team to do, whether he’s screaming it on Sunday or reading it in the
headlines of Monday’s paper. Simplicity disappears with the next word: ‘Vanquish takes
‘Win’ to extremes, suggesting the overpowering of an utterly defeated foe.’ Conquer’
adds notions of control and possession to the rapidly growing mixture of meanings.
Then ‘Clobber!’and ‘Drub’ evoke the exaggerated language of comic strips as they
also recall the clichés often typed by sportswriters.”  
Daniel Buren, “Unexpected Variable Configurations: A Work in Situ,” 1998, wall painted yellow with
hand drawn grid and 25 screen-printed aluminum plates, 21 feet by 118 feet, Main Concourse,
Southeast Concession, photo courtesy Dallas Cowboys
Daniel Buren’s bright yellow wall painting fits into its surroundings at the same time it stands out
from them… This ambiguity leads many viewers to ask: ‘Is it art or just part of the building?’”…
Buren’s point is that it is too limiting to think of art as only a precious object that needs to be
sequestered in a museum. In his radically democratic view, art is most compelling when it is
unexpected especially when it interacts with its content and alters our perceptions by getting
us to think about the way we would inhabit it. And that is what the veteran French artist
wants you to ask.”
read PART II - The Art and Architecture of the Cowboys Stadium Score International Acclaim in
moderndallas.weekly next week....