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"Love Man" Justin Brown Durand's new drawings at Front Gallery are inspired by Valentine's Day, but don't expect any hearts, flowers or anything remotely resembling your typical saccharine romance. But there is tons of pink. For "Love Man," gallery owner Sharon Engelstein reached out to Durand to specifically make a show to run during the Hallmark holiday. The artist says he then put himself in a "love trance," looking to romance, lust and passion for inspiration. The result of that trance shows the three at play in raw works that are alternately creepy, strange and oddly alluring, done in crayons, pastels, markers, pencil and pen. The subjects of Durand's paintings are exposed, both literally and emotionally — naked, with outlines of bones and arteries dressing up their limbs. The hearts here are outside the body, bleeding and still beating. The drawings are like R. Crumb meets Picasso — black and white ink sketches of bodies with their proportions, well, out of proportion. The subjects themselves display a wide range of romantic states — one couple is in rapture, embracing tenderly. Another is lying straight as boards, dead-looking, displaying no sense of intimacy despite their mutual nakedness. "Moccasins" is one of the most memorable, if also alarming, pieces — it shows an anonymous couple, their faces masked by long, flowing hair, in a heated moment. Both are naked save for their moccasins, and one is being dismembered, the torso cut in half and guts being pulled out. That gruesome scene is immediately followed by the touching "Virgins" — the image of a couple embracing, gazing into each others' eyes, with the words "I never thought tonight would ever be this close to me" coming from the man's mouth. Through March 17. 1412 Bonnie Brae St., 713-298-4750. — MD

"Perspectives 177: McArthur Binion" McArthur Binion's show at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston features a repetition of geometric shapes — triangles, squares and circles — varying only by color. To make them, he presses wax crayon onto wood and aluminum panels in a very laborious process that results in what the Chicago artist likes to call "Rural Modernism," both a nod to the pieces' heavy texture and his Mississippi upbringing. The result of all this repetition, however, is that once you see one piece, you've seen them all. Whether it's a red triangle, green triangle or purple triangle, there's not much to propel you forward. To be fair, each piece is subtly different, though that's largely indiscernible to the naked eye. That's because barely visible under each layer of crayon are autobiographical elements — pictures of Binion, his birth house, and parents, as well as lynched men and even racist and stereotypical imagery taken from fruit wrappings. The artist cleverly calls this the "under-consciousness" of the work, though like anything that's under the surface, you have to be told it's there, or otherwise miss it completely. One piece that did stand out in the artist's museum debut was Stellucca I: (Rural Geometry) — a parallelogram, the only one of its kind in the show, whose title is a combination of Binion's children's names, Stella and Lucca. With just a few simple lines, Binion manages to create a great tension that really grabs you. Through April 1. 5216 Montrose Blvd., 713-284-8250. — MD

"Push Play" In his first solo show in eight years, for those keeping track, Kyle Young picks up right where he left off. His bold paintings continue the play with geometric shape and order that he's become known for in his new show at Art Palace. And the colors are as bright as ever. Young has been operating a fairly successful art storage and refurbishing company, Ty-Art, handling the care and treatment of other people's art. That detail gives a whole new way of looking at his work here. Most of his paintings have been chopped up, first painted on a whole canvas, which is then sliced into even pieces that are rearranged very carefully to make the canvas whole again. It sounds like a nightmare to potentially destroy your art, but the works are very clean and smooth, handled with utmost care and each piece placed just so. That's not to say they aren't without tension. In such pieces as Fathers and Dialogue — Red & Orange, your mind tries in vain to piece the work back together to its original, more familiar form, the visible strokes of paint no longer connecting from piece to piece. Similar to this reordering and rearranging to create something new, some of Young's works also deal in inverses. The most impressive of these, Chalice Reversed, shies away from the artist's bright pastels and works with just black and white — with the black largely engulfing what little white there is. It is a giant — 116 by 77 feet — and takes up one of the gallery's walls. The work references Chalice, a much smaller painting in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's collection that consists of the same image and proportions, but with the black white and the white black. A simple detail like that, even without the referenced work displayed, reminded me that this is a piece of art that has a history, a lineage, and no one work is ever really "done." Through April 7. 3913 Main, 281-501-2964. — MD

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