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"Rhythm" In his show of new acrylic paintings at Devin Borden Gallery, Todd Hebert presents subjects that are comically lowbrow and adolescent — a jack-o'-lantern candy bucket, a snowman, bubbles, a baseball. But for all their childlike connotations, Hebert's acrylics don't come off as overly nostalgic or sentimental. The snowman looms almost sinisterly, taking up the majority of the canvas in one piece. The jack-o'-lantern, which shows up in several paintings, is in the shadows in one, the telltale eyes, nose and mouth of the pumpkin barely visible in the near-total darkness. And the baseball is all by its lonesome, soaring through the nighttime air to some unseen mitt. These objects seem to be picked based not so much on a specific memory or connection but on the challenges in bringing them to life and creating their near-likeness. Hebert seems to be playing with movement and momentum with his spherical subjects. Many of his paintings depict the objects suspended in mid-flight. You can sense them moving — the sharply focused baseball hurling through its trajectory over a soft, romantic cityscape in a painting of remarkable photographic quality; the shiny, translucent bubbles waiting to pop or be popped as they lazily float on by; the awkward flight of the plastic jack-o'-lantern bucket before it crashes to the ground, as it inevitably will. Other subjects are in repose, and Hebert uses this opportunity to play with perspective and keep us on our toes a little bit. In Ball and Jack o' Lantern, a baseball lies in front of the black-and-orange bucket, nothing really out of the ordinary except that the baseball rests at the edge of the canvas, while the bottom of the bucket lies below at sights unseen, throwing things off. These all-too-familiar items become new, strange, humorous, creepy, striking and moving. Through July 10. 3917 Main, 713-529-2700. — MD

"Shifting Transforming: Ideas, Shapes & Materials" This aptly named group show at Peel is a colorful, fun and engaging way to send in the summer. It features sculptural works by some previous Peel exhibitors — Tom Lauerman, Fabio Fernandez and Gabriel Dawe among them — and some newcomers, including Jennifer Maestre. Maestre has gained international attention for her pencil sculptures (she's even been featured on The Martha Stewart Show). Here, it's easy to see why: They're compelling pieces that are so simple — literally pieces of colored pencil sewn together — but are so masterful and alluring, they steal the show. The artist has said she was initially inspired by sea urchins, and that definitely comes through in her series of small round works, aptly titled Urchins. Her larger works also give hints at their origins — one, titled Fat Boy, resembles the form of a rotund human body. Another, Tiamat, the name a reference to a draconic goddess in the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, indeed looks like some sort of spiky, four-legged monster. Simply alternating between the sharp point of the pencil and its flat end, Maestre is able to create complex contours and shapes that are out of this world and yet still familiar. Through July 28. 4411 Montrose, 713-520-8122. — MD

"Tu Eres o No Tu Eres Mi Baby" On one level, Ricky Armendariz's text-based carved paintings, done on plywood, function as romantic landscapes, and they're quite beautiful. In Dame Dame Dame, the moody blue-black sky is cut by a streak of pinkish red, likely a river. Along the lower left, distinctive, soft streetlights trace an unseen road, floating spookily along in the blackness. In Dale Dale Dale, we seem to get a close-up of this landscape, with the same reddish-pink form set against the dark outline of mountains. Over both of these landscapes, Armendariz has meticulously carved out objects — a helicopter in Dame Dame Dame, a rifle striking a piñata in Dale Dale Dale — as well as the words of the paintings' titles. It's an intriguing juxtaposition, this destructive, physical technique over his lovely painting, especially when Armendariz gets to his primarily textual pieces. In works of the same name, he's carved the words and phrases "Mala mala mala," "Tu eres loca pero yo te quiero anyway" and "Tu crazy baby" over plumes of black smoke and magenta skies. Armendariz was raised in the border town of El Paso, and his paintings evoke this area with their pop culture and hybrid use of Spanish and English. On a darker note, they reference the drug wars in towns like Juarez, with their smoke, gun imagery, and ominous text and colors. Even some of the carved-out words resemble the scattered shots of bullets in paintings like Tu Crazy Baby, where each letter is made up of numerous holes. Through July 6. Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530. — MD

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