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"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

"HJ Bott: Rhythm and Rhetoric" Houston artist HJ Bott has been exploring his so-called "displacement-of-volume system" for 40 years now, and he's celebrating with an exhibition of his newest works at Anya Tish Gallery. It says something that after 40 years, Bott hasn't gotten bored with his self-developed technique, which explores lines and geometric shapes on fiberboard that he then casts with glossy, bold color. And the op-art works themselves are far from boring — they're bright, colorful works that attract viewers like moths to a flame. And once they get you there, they're highly cerebral — through his sharp lines and shapes, Bott plays with dimension, creating 3-D shapes that almost seem to rotate in space on the canvas. It's no surprise that the boldest and the brightest of them all — Mesocarp Mischief — is the star of the show. The painting graces the cover of the latest Arts and Culture magazine; it's the poster image on the gallery's handout, and it attracted gallery-goers during the opening like none of the other works. It's an intriguing visual — its thin black lines over the hot pink make it look like a Barbie barcode, while circles are uniquely dissected by lines, colors and curves. Bott says he's dabbling in concepts like yin/yang and string theory and applies layers of paint and glaze in vibrant colors up to 100 times, but his works lack emotion. It's all a bit too methodical — Bott even uses specific "warm" and "cool" colors to achieve the multidimensionality of his works. These works are all about dimension, but it's hard to get below the surface when it's all so manipulated. Through June 9. 4411 Montrose, 713-524-2299. — MD

"Jason Yates: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything" Jason Yates has lowered the volume on his art. In his first Houston solo show, at Barbara Davis Gallery, he has eliminated almost all color for mostly black-and-white patterns, creating an environment that's more meditative than in-your-face. There are even black wooden "monk boxes" scattered throughout the gallery that, if you didn't know any better, you'd think were places to sit down and drink in his textural works. In all, it's a pleasantly cohesive show. Yates has a series of acrylic and ink canvases that consist of intricate crosshatches and pieces of scalloped paper cascading down sections of the canvas. The drawings are incredibly meticulous — you might easily miss how labor-intensive it all is because the works are almost soothing. They're mostly black-and-white, varying by pattern, with the occasional loud pink or pale orange thrown in to shake things up, as if Yates teasingly turned the volume up to jolt you awake, then turned it back down once he had your attention. You'll be tempted to take a seat on one of the monk boxes before Snake Pit, a painstakingly crafted wall drawing that makes use of the gallery space in an incredibly clever way. The work is all zigzags à la Sol LeWitt and frames an entryway that looks right out onto Sunset and Sunrise, a wallpaper hanging in the front of the gallery that features black-and-white crosshatched squares reminiscent of Jasper Johns, but less carefree. As you stand there, these furious line drawings come together and take on a whole new dynamic. Yates doesn't have to be loud to completely hold our attention. Through June 30. 4411 Montrose, 713 520-9200. — MD

"Source Material: Works by Brian Dupont and Chris Rusak" Brian Dupont and Chris Rusak both work in language, though good luck trying to read anything they make. That's because their art also deals with transformation — using collage to deconstruct a text or stenciling letters onto abstract 3-D wall sculptures — and plays with language in subtle, unexpected ways. The two artists come together with Source Material, a delightful group show at Skydive Art Space curated by Brian Piana. Piana found the artists through Twitter, and it's amazing that the two even travel in the same circles there — at the outset, each artist's work seems to be the opposite of the other's, starting with their materials. Dupont works in oil and aluminum, using squares and pipes of metal as surfaces on which to place stenciled letters and blocks of color. Rusak works in collage on Masonite, cutting up pages from a book (Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams) and then rearranging them to form squares, diamonds and other shapes. Dupont and Rusak's pieces also have very different aesthetics. Dupont's oil paintings are all gritty, graffiti-like works that have an urban quality about them. Rusak's squares, diagonals and diamond objects have a clear order and logic to them and seem refined despite their simplicity. For all their differences, both artists manage to abstract language, forcing the viewer to find new ways of looking at and digesting what's already a highly familiar experience — reading — and making it thrillingly unfamiliar. The two are in good company. Through June 16. 2041 Norfolk St. 713-551-3497. — MD

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