Self-identifying as dinosaurs, and as anachronistic as blacksmiths, courtroom artists have for decades done what digital media still can't: capture in a single sketch the sentiment behind hours, if not days of litigation. Yet cameras across the country have been killing careers of courtroom artists since they became permitted inside the hallowed halls of justice in the 1990s. Though not apparent in the title, a key collaborator in the CAM show at Unit B (Gallery), "The State of Texas v. Gary Sweeney v. The Art Guys," is Fort Worth-based courtroom artist extraordinaire Gary Myrick (not to be confused with the Dallas-born rocker or the U.S. senator). He's covered Whitewater, Paula Jones, the Pamela Fielder manslaughter case that led to the Texas battered-wife defense, and decades of other trials of the movie-of-the-week order.
The idea for the show came about after San Antonio artist Gary Sweeney commissioned Myrick to draw his wife on the witness stand as a Valentine's Day gift. His wife, says Sweeney, is "a complete court TV junkie." They've been married 23 years and the only books he's only ever known her to read are true crime. "Then I got the idea to do a complete trial that Gary would illustrate. I've hired the hit guys to kill my wife." The "hit guys" are, naturally, played by The Art Guys — aka Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing — those art-world bad-boys whose multimedia work will be highlighted in their hometown's "Lone Star Performance Explosion: The Houston International Performance Art Biennale 2012," March 7-10. The pair will stage their day in court in Houston, email digital images of their enactments to Sweeney, who will then send selections to Myrick for "authentic" courtroom drawing documentation to be displayed at Unit B. Other characters in this courtroom drama include Southtown's stalwart esquire Mike Casey as Defense Attorney, real-life judge (and artist himself) Daniel Guerrero as Judge, and AT&T attorney Len Briley as the Prosecutor. Sweeney's wife plays Sweeney's wife.
Though Myrick's been forced to work as a security guard to make ends meet, those days are almost over. The same January 2012 Texas Monthly story featuring Myrick and his courtroom illustrations that caught Sweeney's eye is providing Myrick, who teaches illustration at Texas Christian University, with enough new commissions to let him quit the guard gig. "For hundreds of years, artists have covered wars; we can sketch on scene." Myrick says. He and Sweeney will meet face-to-face for the first time at the Unit B (Gallery) opening; whether he'll have his sketchbook on hand remains to be seen. Free; 6:30-10:30pm Friday Mar 23, Unit B (Gallery), 500 Stieren, (312) 375-1871, unitbgallery.com. On view to May 5