The not-for-profit exhibition space The Power Station, founded in 2011, is housed in a former electrical substation for the Dallas Power & Light Company. The facility was active into the late 1940s, and later put to a range of uses. Alden Pinnell is the collector behind the newest chapter to its varied history, offering many out-of-town artists a chance to respond to the unique, raw space with a site-specific project. Past exhibitions include installations by Jacob Kassay, Oscar Tuazon, Virginia Overton, Michael E. Smith, and now, Karl Holmqvist this spring. We spoke with the space’s Artistic Director Rob Teeters, about displaying the kinds of work that clash with traditional gallery spaces.
WHITEWALL: The Power Station’s niche seems to be its departure from the “white cube” galleries that we’re so familiar with, along with its enormous size. What are some of the challenges that come with maintaining this kind of unique alternative space?
ROB TEETERS: It’s truly a Frankensteinian composite. For artists, the building’s raw architecture offers an alternative to the exhibition conventions of the white cube. It’s a challenging proposition for an artist to formalize an exhibition in a busy interior with a lot of columns and walls made of brick and concrete with peeling paint. But, it’s also an opportunity to think specifically about how the exhibition format can hold its relationship to The Power Station’s architecture without this becoming the exhibition’s primary focus or motivation.
It’s worth noting that many of the artists who have conducted projects at The Power Station are coming to the space as first- time visitors to Dallas—and, for the Dallas
community, it’s their first encounter with the artists’ work. So, the exhibitions also offer a platform of exchange between the artist and the Dallas community more broadly.
WW: Is there anything in particular about the building’s past as an electrical warehouse that you think adds to its magnetism, or shows up conceptually in the exhibitions?
RT: The building has all sorts of bizarre details that artists have integrated into their projects throughout The Power Station’s programming. Oscar Tuazon used the building’s integrated crane to lift and rotate a large-scale sculpture for his exhibition “Die.” The rotation caused the sculpture to crumble under the pressure of its own movement that left loose pieces of concrete scattered throughout the installation. Lucy Dodd recently used the same crane to suspend a painting in space as a quasi-ceiling for a room made of paintings she conceived as a “mermaid’s den” in her exhibition “Buttercut.”
WW: Would you say that the space influences artists’ work in a general way—like encouraging larger work, or more interactive pieces—or is the influence more specific for each artist?
RT: The influence is always specific to each artist and doesn’t necessarily render only large work. For example, Tobias Madison extended an invitation to Emanuel Rossetti, Stefan Tcherepnin, and Flavio Merlo to participate in his exhibition “Drip Event.”
They thought of the space as a living, breathing organism that filled up with fluid and emptied itself out. This came to be by way of flooding the mezzanine level on a weekly basis. The water seeped through the concrete slab where it was collected in handmade vessels on the floor below, creating a sound installation. So, the exhibitions tend to address the site in different ways without the site becoming the exhibition’s focus or subject.
WW: Are there any specific ways that you personally want to see the space at The Power Station used in future exhibitions?
RT: I’m interested in sound-based exhibitions in the future. “Drip Event” explored this possibility, but I am very curious to see sound prioritized as a singular element for an exhibition. Performance as a medium is not widely shown in the community of Dallas, but
I do believe there is an audience for it. We will continue to host performances to coincide with our programming with the hope that this form of cultural production can be understood on a level playing field with that of painting and sculpture.
WW: You have an upcoming show with Karl Holmqvist, who’s known for his language- based installations. We’ve heard a little about flashing images and strobe lighting being part of this exhibition “Tuff Love.” Can you talk a little bit about how this new show will be different from his other exhibitions?
RT: “Tuff Love” will consist of two new large- scale sculptures, a film, a book, and a live performance with Stefan Tcherepnin. The performance will be a cover of Throbbing Gristle’s song Discipline. Karl made a limited-edition artist’s book with Studio Manuel Raeder that will be available for purchase at the opening and on our website. This will be the introduction of Karl’s work to the Dallas audience, so the goal wasn’t necessarily to make a “different” type of exhibition, but rather to represent the multi-faceted nature of Karl’s investigation of words and language.