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Capsule Art Reviews: "Berlin, Potsdamer Platz," "The Graphic Arts of Hans Erni," "The Livable Forest," "Love Man," "New Paintings: Geoff Hippenstiel," "Perspectives 177: McArthur Binion"

"Berlin, Potsdamer Platz" Magda Boltz-Wilson's current collection features an abstract succession of block prints, some monotone, others with striking swipes of colors. Potsdamer Platz is one of the most noted intersections in Germany. It has been at the center of decades of history for the country, from its total destruction after the Second World War, to its literal divide when the Berlin Wall was erected, to its becoming a pile of rubble after the demolition of the Wall. In 1991, the area was reborn as the largest building site in Europe. It is this Potsdamer Platz that Boltz-Wilson has captured in her artwork. Some of Boltz-Wilson's prints are obvious images of the construction. Skewed skyscrapers jut out of the canvas. If you look closely enough, you can almost feel the city coming alive in these prints, along with the hope of a new era. Large mechanical cranes assist in the buildings on her canvas, and dust covers the perimeter. In addition to the black and white buildings, Boltz-Wilson has a series of colorful, vinyl block prints that move away from her infrastructure theme and depict the history of the area. In one print in particular, a series of faces stares out at you. Are they watching you, like some sort of secret police, or are they the victims, attempting to hide away? Either way, the impact is haunting. Through March 10 at the Redbud Gallery, 303 East 11th St., 713-862-2532. — AK

"The Graphic Arts of Hans Erni" Hans Erni is one of Switzerland's best-known artists, and a contemporary of Picasso, Kandinsky and Mondrian. Over the decades, he's worked in lithography, digital technology and everything in between. At 103 years old, he still works in his studio every day, rivaling artists a quarter of his age. So I had high hopes for Erni's first major retrospective here in the United States, held at the Museum of Printing History. But I was let down. The retrospective consists of 40 posters, mainly painted illustrations, arranged for the most part in chronological order, from 1948 to 2009. In his decades-long career, Erni has done more than posters, and the museum's exhibition brochure even boasts that his work includes paintings, print and book illustrations, stage design, tapestry and postage stamps. Sure, the exhibition needs some focus given his wide span, but with row upon row of 128-by-91-centimeter posters, other types of graphic art would have been appreciated simply for some variety, as well as to accurately portray and pay tribute to the range of Erni's work. Another missing component is context. Given his Swiss pedigree, the posters are largely in French and German, and, removed from their time frame of reference, they're difficult to decipher. But you can still judge Erni's graphic artwork on its own. The work itself varies wonderfully in style and theme, from dramatic images of a skull topped with an atomic bomb plume to a decapitated tree (literally). Many are united by Erni's repeated use of geometric elements, especially circles, and sometimes even consistent fonts. In some works, the artist adopts styles similar to those of the masters, such as in a striking silkscreen from 1961 of a naked woman that's reminiscent of Picasso, and a Degas-esque print of a woman holding up a giant nut. These intriguing finds make for some standouts in this small show, which despite its flaws is necessary viewing for fans of Erni stateside. Through June 9. 1324 W. Clay St., 713-522-4652. — MD

"The Livable Forest" This winter, the closest you can come to ice is at the Devin Borden Gallery. Laura Lark's latest show turns the gallery into a cool forest of silver and white. From the piles of brick on the ground, topped by deer and sirens, to the Tyvek the Houston artist uses as a canvas, the space is coated in shiny silver and stretches of white. The human dwellers of this forest are equally cool — portraits of Steve McQueen, Jane Fonda and a trio of lounging, longhaired women hang throughout the space, with silver strands of faux leaves hanging from the ceiling. The images of McQueen and Fonda, pulled from old magazine photo shoots, are meticulously made through stippling — a seemingly simple, elementary task of making many, many black dots, here with a Sharpie marker, with the dots denser in some parts, less so in others, to create the desired image. It's a technique Lark has used before, but is still completely awe-inspiring. Other works are made with watercolor, in smooth, blue strokes that look light and easy in comparison despite their own painterly skill. Lark has chosen one of Steve McQueen's most enduring images — his 1962 Harper's Bazaar cover — to re-create, but she crops out any white space, so that even the magazine name just reads "Azaa," and just focuses on his grinning mug, draped by a seemingly disembodied arm. Lark's black-and-white stippling technique makes him ghostly, as if McQueen is slowly disappearing. In a second dotted-Sharpie replica of the movie star, McQueen comes off more menacing than sexy, as the lipstick marks on his forehead and mouth once implied, with his hard, cold stare coming back at you. Fonda, on the other hand, looks more like a goddess than ever in a long, striking profile, based on an image when she was a teenager, forever young. Through April 7. 3917 Main, 713-529-2700. — MD

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