In Plain Sight

McClain Gallery presents a cavalcade of Houston painting.

David Aylsworth isn't worried about painting's health; for him, evidence of the act of painting is a virtue, and there is plenty to be found in his 2012 work Through Being Wary. Aylsworth is an artist who has never thrown out a structurally sound canvas. He works and works and works the surfaces of his paintings, going back sometimes years later. They bear witness to those who came before, their lumps of paint and ghosts of colored shapes showing through the surface. Aylsworth's abstract forms are skillfully but clearly handpainted; the hard-won evidence of the artist trying for perfection and failing is part of their worth.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Deprez could give a shit about precision. His fantastically wonky stripe painting Totem (2012) is done on a "shaped canvas" that doesn't even have a square corner or a straight side. It's big and dorky and oddly charming, its sections of thick stripes looking as if they were stitched together from old clothes.

And speaking of dorky, Cody Ledvina's Alex Grey Painting (2011) is a silly, purposefully clunky riff on Grey's earnest psychedelic New Agery, a painting of a radiant figure with luminous internal organs flanked by some cave painting-esque horses. Ledvina turns an ironic eye on Paleolithic as well as contemporary shamanism. It's one of a number of purposefully ridiculous figurative works. Cheyenne Ramos's gleefully lurid portrait Item (2012) depicts a beaming young woman and what looks like the Sasquatch from the 1987 Big Foot comedy (!?) Harry and the Hendersons. They are posed like a loving couple in an Olan Mills portrait. Meanwhile, Hana Shoup paints herself as Boucher's Madame de Pompadour in a heavy-handed rococo froth of paint.

A young woman with...a Sasquatch? Cheyenne Ramos's Item.
Courtesy of McClain Gallery
A young woman with...a Sasquatch? Cheyenne Ramos's Item.

Location Info


McClain Gallery

2242 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX 77098

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Lower Shepherd-Kirby


"In Plain Sight"

Through October 20.

Francesca Fuchs turned to another artwork for subject matter as well, painting what amounts to a portrait of a cheap print hanging in frame. Her Framed Print: Piranesi (2011) is a pale, grayed and brushy reproduction of Piranesi's engraving of ruins, the work's mat and frame simply rendered around the edges of Fuchs's canvas. Fuchs has conjured powerful paintings from subject matter like kitchen cabinets and breastfeeding. She is the kind of artist who, locked in solitary confinement, would still pull from her environment — she could turn a prison toilet or the corner of a cell into a great painting.

It's hard to be hip over 30 (2003) by Bill Davenport, fellow painter and Fuchs's husband, uses his formidable trompe l'oeil skills to wry narrative effect. What appears to be one of Aaron Parazette's early paint-splatter paintings is the background for the artist's deft renderings of the kind of paperbacks that don't even sell at garage sales. An owner's manual for a 1976 Nova shares the stage with a yellowed copy of Low-Cost Gourmet Cooking and the book that gives the painting its title, the subhead reading "and other tragedies of married life." Nostalgia, kitsch, life and art collide.

Meanwhile, Tierney Malone pulls graphic elements from classic albums rather than worn paperbacks. Malone blends swatches of text and images from Billie Holiday, Al Green and Marvin Gaye to create a visual and verbal love poem. "I'm still in love with you," "Call me," "I want you." Rendered in matte chalky tempera on pieced-together sections of cardboard, the surfaces have an aura of worn gravitas.

Like every group show, there is too much in "In Plain Sight" to cover. But unlike every group show, there is a lot more worth seeing. Most of the work is pretty recent, and it's a good way to see what these artists have been up to. The majority of them are represented by other galleries (although, apparently, not every gallery allowed their artists to participate), and Houstonians won't get to see their work until their next scheduled show. "In Plain Sight" also has a smattering of young, interesting and unaffiliated artists whose work you might not come across. If you're looking for a status update on Houston painting, this is it.

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