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Capsule Art Reviews: "Hilary Wilder: A Northern Tale", "Interstitial Spaces: Julia Barello & Beverly Penn", "Kyle Farley: Countenance", "Perry House: Elegance/Violence", "Rita Bernstein: Out of Place", "Shifting Transforming: Ideas, Shapes & Mater

"Hilary Wilder: A Northern Tale" There is something compellingly otherworldly about Hilary Wilder's work. Geysers, glaciers, high seas — the imagery suggests a chilly northern element we can only approach through intense air conditioning. It's likely a desired effect, as Wilder plays with notions of what's real in nature in her new show at Devin Borden Gallery, fittingly called "A Northern Tale." The artist draws on her experiences traveling to Iceland for the new works. There are paintings of seascapes and exploding geysers, a sculpture of a black-and-gold skiff, and references to a modern war, the kind fought over fishery rights. To tell these stories, Wilder uses an impressive range of materials and skills. There's a wonderful craftiness to her works — she uses PVC and jewelry hinges in the white floor piece Garment for an Island Nation, spray paint and gold leaf in The Viking's Skiff, and, in the majority of pieces, acrylic on Yupo paper to depict, in turns, wood and ice. Raft, the show's centerpiece work, appears to be a raft in disarray, three pieces neatly held together while three others lean precariously off to the side, barely, almost impossibly held together by a string of twine. Upon closer inspection — namely, as one reads the gallery list — it becomes apparent that these aren't pieces of wood but an illusion of acrylic on Yupo paper that resembles the organic shades and patterns of wood. Wilder has tricked us. She successfully plays with order and disorder, the real and the unreal. Through August 5. 3917 Main, 713-529-2700. — MD

"Interstitial Spaces: Julia Barello & Beverly Penn" The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft's inspired current show, "Interstitial Spaces," brings together Julia Barello and Beverly Penn in their first collaborative installation. This is such a natural pairing that it makes for a cohesive, rich, full show, even with only nine pieces on view. The two artists make skillful, sculptural wall works. Barello's materials of choice are X-ray and MRI films, which she cuts and dyes to look like delicate flora — they seem to sprout from the wall, they're so textured and alive. Penn, meanwhile, takes real plants, then freezes and casts them in bronze to capture every curl or twist. The resulting pieces have such a lightness to them, it's surprising and impressive to find out that they're bronze. Each of the artists' works have a sense of wild about them that's still nonetheless contained — Barello's flowers and trees are neat and trim, while Penn's threads are sprawling like unruly weeds yet still contained, whether in perfect circles or straight, exact lines. Their sensibilities combine wonderfully in a new collaborative wall installation made just for the center that stretches the length of the main wall. It's massive — you can't take it all in at once, but have to walk along, taking it in as you move through the space. It's called Submerged, and the film and bronze do seem to move together fluidly, like water or, similarly, a wind current. What really comes through here and in the other exhibition works is the ways the pieces interact with the spaces they don't occupy. Around each twist of a bronze or film flower, there's emptiness in the form of the white wall. As the name of the show implies, these between, or interstitial, spaces are as important as the works themselves. Through September 1. 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — MD

"Kyle Farley: Countenance" Most of the eight works by Kyle Farley in this show are lit, either by a source within, by small bulbs on the surface or, as is the case in one piece, by a red spotlight attached to the work. But it's one of the more straightforward pieces that features the strongest imagery. In Untitled (Navajo Swastikas), there are no lights or complex parts, just the black-and-white image of a basketball team digitally printed on wooden boards seemingly ripped from an old basketball court. On their uniforms, the players sport swastikas. But these aren't German Nazis. They're Navajos, circa 1909, photographed before the swastika was adopted as a symbol of the Nazi party. It's a powerful photo, made all the more so by Farley's composition and materials. The ancient symbol is seen again in Swastika Ball. Here, Farley uses a light box and a photograph of a group of children performing the Nazi salute. This scene is not in Germany, either, but Milwaukee during the mid-1930s. One half of the photo is clearly manipulated, as the children are stiffly raising their left arms instead of their right. The 80-year-old image is subversively undermined thanks to some modern-day photo technology. They're big pieces — Farley showed up with 30 works for the show, and the modest Redbud Gallery was able to fit only eight — with big, if also a bit perplexing, ideas. Here's this good ol' boy from Cleburne, Texas, digging up forgotten Nazi paraphernalia. But shock value seems to be only part of it. Other works feature images of the Nazis' base in Antarctica, Vladimir Putin, the American eagle, rockets and oil fields. They're all symbols of power that Farley's managed to diminish. Nothing is off limits here. Through August 27. 303 E. 11th St., 713-862-2532. — MD

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