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Why not party like it’s 1999-since it will be? Watch Junior Brown, Alvin Crow, and other troubadours ring in a honky-tonk New Year (Austin, Forth Worth, San Antonio, and Elsewhere). Plus: A benefit concert by the nation’s top cello fellow (Dallas); a filling exhibit of oil company ads (Elsewhere); Mexican art that breaks with tradition (Houston); and crowing about Asian art (Dallas). Edited by Quita McMath, Katy Vine, and Eileen Schwartz.
THE MAIN EVENT
Y’all Lang Syne
Never mind what some alarmists are saying about famines and destruction as we approach the millennium. There’s one thing we know we can count on: New Year’s Eve bashes are starting to get pretty spectacular. This year the state’s biggest down-home wingding can be found in San Antonio, where four music stages and a smorgasbord of food booths will draw revelers to a sprawling celebration on South Alamo near the River Walk. There’ll be dancing in the street to the Western swing sounds of Asleep at the Wheel (above), Grupo Tormenta’s tejano tunes, and more, capped by fireworks at midnight. Beyond San Antonio, dance halls and honky-tonks around the state have lined up some country legends for the big night: Merle Haggard sings C&W anthems at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Junior Brown takes his guit-steel to Bandera’s Cabaret Cafe, and fiddler Alvin Crow is booked at Austin’s venerable Broken Spoke. So scoot your boots and raise a ruckus before those New Year’s resolutions kick in. KATY VINE
In 1982 Andrew Litton, a promising young graduate of Juilliard’s conducting program, auditioned for an assistant conductor’s position before the eminent cellist and leader of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C., Mstislav Rostropovich (right). Competition was fierce, with scores of candidates vying for the prize, but Rostropovich hired Litton practically on the spot. So began a musical association that will continue on December 6 when Litton, now the music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, conducts his old boss and mentor in Antonin Dvorak’s 1895 Cello Concerto in B Minor, the great romantic work that made stars of cellists. Rostropovich is at the height of his powers. His 1995 recording of the Bach Cello Suites continues to be a best-seller, and in October he conducted and played in an acclaimed series of London Symphony Orchestra concerts dedicated to the work of his friend Dimitri Shostakovich. Rostropovich celebrated his seventieth birthday last year at a star-studded tribute that left little doubt that he is the world’s most honored musician. This benefit concert should be the hottest ticket in town. CHESTER ROSSON
It’s a Gas
The legend of Texas oil is Spindletop, 1901. It’s wildcatters amassing unimaginable fortunes and pump jacks endlessly riding the open plains. This is familiar history, of course, but an exhibit opening at Beaumont’s Texas Energy Museum on December 15 presents a more refined aspect of the oil economy that powered Texas into the modern age. “The Magic of Gasoline: Oil Company Advertising, 1930–1950″ examines the advertising and marketing strategies that Texas companies like Gulf and Texaco used to lure consumers to their pumps. Remember the uniformed attendants who pumped your gas, checked your tires, cleaned your windshield, and sent you safely on your way? Remember free maps and drinking glasses, treasure contests, and certified clean restrooms? “The companies were trying to establish the idea of consumer loyalty and competing heavily for that motorist dollar,” says Ryan Smith, the Energy Museum’s executive director. “This early advertising reflected the idea that if you went to a particular station, then you were going to receive a total commitment.” The exhibit, with its nostalgic magazine ads, oil company signs, and gas pumps, recalls a time when life seemed simpler and oil was king—a time, says Smith, “when our love affair with the car began.” BRIAN D. SWEANY
When most of us think of modern Mexican art, the great muralists and painters—Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros, and Tamayo—naturally come to mind. Today a new generation of contemporary Mexican artists are breaking away from the bold traditions of their famous predecessors, whose works often contained powerful political messages, and taking Mexican art in new directions. “Mexico Ahora: Punto de Partida/Mexico Now: Point of Departure,” which opens at Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum on December 19, “is going to broaden our understanding of what can be considered Mexican,” says CAM curator Alexandra Irvine. “It shows that people who are living in Mexico and are influenced by its culture can also be influenced by what is happening internationally.” A wide variety of media are used—including paint, but not in the usual, flamboyant way. Mónica Castillo incorporates bread in paper bags in an installation. Carlos Arias uses embroidery, a traditional Mexican craft. Betsabeé Romero adorns a pair of prayer rails with dried roses in a 1996 untitled work (one is shown above). Says Irvine: “An interesting thing about the show is that you don’t necessarily think, ‘Oh, these people must be from Mexico.’” EILEEN SCHWARTZ
Something to Crow About
Where can you find the world’s second-largest flawless crystal ball, a Chinese throne screen fit for an emperor, a bronze statue of Confucius sitting atop a fountain, and a tranquil Japanese garden? In the heart of Dallas’ Arts District, that’s where, when the Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art opens on December 5. A group of 120 exquisite jade pieces forms the heart of the wide-ranging trove of paintings, decorative objects, and architectural structures from China, Japan, India, and Southeast Asia (right, Vajradhara, a sixteenth-century Tibetan gilt bronze with turquoise and ruby insets). It all started in 1969, when Dallas real estate magnate and philanthropist Trammell Crow bought his first piece of jade. “Dad always says, ‘I’m not a collector. I’m an accumulator,’” notes Trammell S. Crow, one of the Crows’ six children and the president of the Crow Family Foundation. “It’s not a scholarly approach; it’s really an aesthetic approach.” The museum’s interim director, Peggy Booher, agrees: “The collection was guided by the Crows’ personal taste”—a taste that embraced everything from delicate jade hairpins to the sandstone facade of an eighteenth-century Indian residence and twelfth-century Cambodian temple sculptures. The latter are arrayed in front of a huge photographic mural of the ruins of Angkor Wat. “It creates a wonderful atmosphere,” says Booher. “It makes you feel as though you’re there.” QUITA MCMATH