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Blueprints for the Future

Danielle Tegeder's paintings are intricate drawings of a postapocalyptic world

Danielle Tegeder's paintings are as elaborately named as they are intricately constructed. Try reading this one aloud without taking a breath: Cherry Pink Headquarters (Version City II); with major Center Production, Maze Circle Netting with Square Community Network and Failing Short Escape Route; with Two Floating Shelters; and Pink Side Capsule Room; Information Grid, and Tri-Safety Vessel Side Connection; Upper Habitat Capsule with Loose Love Dots; and Interconnecting Tunnel Network, love dot and Lower Right Oval City (2003).

And that's just average for her.

The fall gallery season is up and running with painting shows at Mixture Contemporary Art with Tegeder and Jane Callister and at Barbara Davis with Jackie Tileston. Tegeder wins the wordy title sweepstakes hands down.

Tegeder, whose work was last seen in Houston in a Mixture drawing show, presents paintings that read like early-20th-century schematics for a plan of a grand utopian world, with Bauhaus artists and the constructivists as consulting engineers. Tegeder's vibrantly colored underground cities have ominous as well as poetic overtones; they seem to have been designed by someone trying to make the best of a postapocalyptic world.

The style of the artist's images is familiar to anyone who has ever looked over a set of blueprints. In fact, that is how Tegeder learned to draw: Her father was a steamfitter who made his schematic drawings of heating and ventilation systems at the kitchen table.

But schematics do not draw you inside ductwork any more than Tegeder is trying to evoke the interior environments of her worlds. She diagrams "essential" elements such as the circular clusters of the "love dot boilers," or "airline resistant habitat structures" and "tower igloo habitats," but these are not sales brochures for postnuclear holocaust housing developments but the plans pored over by the creators of those developments.

Tegeder's paintings are neatly executed with crisply taped-off and painted lines and structures executed in shiny metallics, glossy enamels and matte polyvinyl acrylics. But their tidy designs are interrupted by the occasional mishap. A cloud of smoke erupts on a route, a tiny explosion occurs in the midst of a vast network. Tegeder's strategies for constructing forms create intriguing and elegantly spare compositions that lure the viewer through the paintings.

Two drawings are also included in the show, and while the paintings present us with dynamic colors and large scale, something about the drawings is still especially effective. Maybe it's the fact that marks made directly on paper are more immediate and better evoke a sense of a plan than the carefully painted diagrams. But in all these works Tegeder continues to carefully and ironically map out her post-Armageddon urban planning, fanciful solutions for the worst-case scenario.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the gallery, Jane Callister's work calls to mind the birth of the earth in coalescing psychedelic colored gasses. Working on small wooden panels, Callister constructs her paintings using isolated puddles and splotches of chalky paint swirled together like marble. In other sections, the paint drips over the surface like stalactites and stalagmites and whatever you would call a horizontal occurrence of those geologic phenomena.

The works have terse titles like Split, Pink Ice and Mini Splash. The paint seems to bubble into hills, valleys and waterfalls of caustic activity as Day-Glo colors are cut with muddy earth tones. They are by and large engaging works with the odd slip as the artist walks a tightrope between compelling art and decorative gift wrap.

At Barbara Davis Gallery, former Houstonian and Glassell Core Fellow Jackie Tileston offers titles such as Monkey Brain Chatter, Emptiness and Everything Good. On tan-colored raw linen backgrounds the artist has interspersed smudges of dusty pigment with fragments of geometric and gestural abstraction. Talk about zeitgeist. Isolated elements in the Philadelphia-based Tileston's paintings could almost have been filched from L.A.-based Callister and N.Y.-based Tegeder. Tileston's paintings also have densely patterned elements, floating sections of tightly clustered, brightly colored and mandalalike forms, while other quadrants harbor chaotic swirls of paint. To further thicken the mix, fake fur, bindi dots and Hindu images are sparingly collaged onto the paintings' surfaces.

Tileston has a catalog of marks, swirls and forms that coexist on her canvases with a vaguely Asian feel that often references Chinese landscape painting. Her range of abstract "quotations" evokes different thoughts or moods as well as different ways of interacting with paint, color and form.

The diverse elements hold together well in The Immortals and Me (2003), a dramatic dusty mass of red and fuchsia dry pigment on bare canvas that almost obscures collaged images of Indian gods. The leaf green outline of craggy mountains radiates against the saturated red of the pure pigment.

Gone, Gone, Very Gone (2002) contains a rope of pearl-like dots and drip of blue covered with an op-art pattern of triangles as well as dripping swirls of paint. It also harbors the olive-green swatch of fake fur and a circle of bindi dots. Here Tileston goes a couple steps too far in a central massing of painted and collaged forms. Things get a little too cramped and cluttered, something not helped by a starkly pale peach silhouette.

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