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Capsule Art Reviews: "Bo Joseph: Empire of Spoils," "David Aylsworth: The Reverses Wiped Away," "Endearing the Line," "The Graphic Arts of Hans Erni," "HJ Bott: Rhythm and Rhetoric," "Jason Yates: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything," "Source Material: Wor

"Bo Joseph: Empire of Spoils" In Bo Joseph's first solo show at McClain Gallery, his paintings are hardly reproducible — they're made through a complicated method involving layers of oil pastels, water-based tempera and acrylic-based ink on sheet paper that often damages the delicate paper in the process. Joseph works in patches, putting the pieces together like a puzzle, so if something does happen to go horribly awry, he can fix it. Still, the resulting works aren't perfect; there are uneven edges and parts that seem like they were cut out with a Zippo knife. More to the point, though, there's evidence of Joseph's handiwork all over them. It's only fitting that these works challenge and redefine notions of printmaking, as Joseph is all about challenging conventional notions of material, process, context and, foremost, subject matter. He has appropriated disparate images — ceremonial masks, birds, children, even rugby players — found in printed sources such as books and auction catalogs, stenciled them and repeatedly or strategically stamped them onto the paper to the point where they're almost unrecognizable. They're dense, cryptic, abstract works; it feels like if you stare at them long enough, you'll start to make meaning out of them. And that is the point — Joseph has taken these images out of their original contexts to create new meaning and commonalities. Through June 23. 2242 Richmond, 713-520-9988. — MD

"David Aylsworth: The Reverses Wiped Away" This new show at Inman Gallery displays artist David Aylsworth's geometric abstractions, with titles geekily borrowed from show-tune lyrics. The paintings are predominantly stark white planes and hard edges. In the works that do employ color, the white takes on an erasing quality, overtaking the canvas. These plays between color and form make for great depth and tension as the angular shapes interact with each other. In Vaguely Discontented, three triangle-like pieces convene on the left side of the canvas, floating. In Doors Slamming Left and Right, a triangle holds court in the middle of the canvas, almost swallowed whole by the enveloping white. Indubitably is like a natural progression of this painting, a comically small patch of color barely present at the intersection of Aylsworth's hard lines on a rough white canvas. It's like a portal to someplace where there's free rein of color. Though there is a lot of white, it isn't all the same unadulterated color. Alysworth's method is to apply white paint over layers of color paint, creating off-kilter, angular shapes with each layer. In the process, the white mixes with the underlying colors, taking on pinkish, purplish or greenish hues while seemingly trying to obliterate the original color, these false starts of pink, purple and green. Through July 7. 3901 Main, 713-526-7800. — MD

"Endearing the Line" Berlin-based artist Dirk Rathke has quickly built himself a reputation here in Houston. After several shows at Gallery Sonja Roesch, he's known for his curved canvases — monochrome shapes that bend, twist and seemingly ripple ever so slightly; you have to check the edge of the work just to make sure of their depth — and stripped-down drawings that go off the canvas entirely. In his third exhibition at the gallery, Rathke returns to familiar territory. As the name suggests, the show plays with line, space and dimension, resulting in playful, attention-holding pieces. The most prominent is the remarkable site-specific installation Room-drawing for Houston #2. In his first solo show at Sonja Roesch, back in 2007, Rathke memorably took over the back end of the gallery with neon orange tape. He does so again, this time placing orange tape in the shape of two squares that take over the ceiling, wall and floor. It's part sculpture, part painting, thanks to the brush stroke-like lines of the tape, and it completely throws you off. You're not sure how to react to it — do you look at it straight on or dare to get inside the lines and challenge the 3-D quality of the work? The canvas-twisted works also play with this line between sculpture and painting. Rot Zweiteilig is the most striking of these, comprising two solid-red canvases that are forced together, a line between them adding to the tension. In the future, it'd be nice to see the artist move in another direction instead of doing more of the same. But what he has now is still powerful, memorable work — those neon orange squares will be etched in my mind for quite some time. Through June 30. 2309 Caroline, 713-659-5424. — MD

"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

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