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Capsule Art Reviews: "Flyaway: New Work by Aaron Parazette", "Liz Ward: Cryosphere" "Ruth Shouval: Settle," "Andrea Bianconi: Romance" and "Anthony Thompson Shumate: Sweetly Broken", "Tony Feher: A Work in Four Parts", "Translucent Trajectories"

"Flyaway: New Work by Aaron Parazette" Since moving to Houston in 1990 to be a part of the Core Residency Program at the Glassell School of Art, Aaron Parazette has become one of the city's premier artists. He's taught at the School of Art at the University of Houston for more than a decade, had several solo shows in Houston, Dallas and abroad, and put on major shows himself, including a survey of Houston art currently up at McClain Gallery. Of course, there's also the matter of the art itself — crisp, slick, abstract designs that play with color and form in new ways and seem to get better and more refined every time. So Parazette's current title as Art League Houston's Texas Artist of the Year is a no-brainer. With the award also comes a solo show at Art League, and aren't we lucky. Parazette has decked out two walls of the space's main gallery with his signature, a wall installation. Called "Flyaway," it's an enveloping grid of blue, green, black and white that seems to stretch on infinitely. I loved the sense of speed Parazette managed to create in his bursts of color and lines, and even, likely unintentionally, the way the colors reflected off the black floor. The painting doesn't stop. The show also features six selections from Parazette's new Color Key series. He has abandoned the surfer slang he's experimented with in previous solo shows and focused solely on lines, color and shape. They're unusual shapes, at that — slanted, bulging half-circles, abrupt pentagons and perfect ovals that seem as if they're reacting to the bursts of color and geometric shapes within, trying to contain it all. Of course, these paintings are contained, whether by the limits of the canvas or the walls of the gallery itself. But at least for a little bit, it seems, those limits don't exist. Through November 2. Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530. — MD

"Liz Ward: Cryosphere" In 1897, the Swedish explorer Salomon August Andrée and two companions attempted to travel over the North Pole by hot air balloon. They never made it. In fact, two days after taking off from Norway, they crashed onto Arctic ice, where they faced inevitable death. Their hot air balloon, and what was left of them and their camp, weren't discovered for another 30 years. It's a fascinating, but also horrifying, tale, and one that speaks to the allure of the North Pole at the time — an attraction that cost many men their lives. Liz Ward understands this appeal. The Texas artist is captivated by the North and the histories captured in its ice cores, which provide the subject matter of her new watercolors and silverpoint drawings currently up at Moody Gallery. In light watercolors and silverpoint, Ward depicts the ice cores, which are like the rings in tree trunks, except they record climate conditions over thousands of years via accumulations of snow and ice. Given its age, Arctic ice has unfathomable history and depth, and Ward's watercolors seem chock full of both, especially in her large-scale watercolors. In torrents of gorgeously vivid blues, reds, yellows and more blues, she manages to capture an inherent, raw energy, all the more aided by the subtle sparkle of the mica in her watercolors. In addition to these large-scale works, which the artist calls "glacial ghosts" in a further reference to climate change, Ward has two watercolor pieces positioned directly across from each other in the gallery titled Ice Balloon. They're minutely detailed blue circles that directly reference Andrée's doomed expedition. Even if you didn't know the morbid history, you couldn't look at these icy blue watercolors and not shiver. Through November 21. 2815 Colquitt St., 713-526-9911. — MD

"Ruth Shouval: Settle," "Andrea Bianconi: Romance" and "Anthony Thompson Shumate: Sweetly Broken" The current show at Barbara Davis Gallery is actually three, as three different artists present their own exhibitions, to mixed results. Ruth Shouval's unique relief prints in "Settle" fill up the whole front room with a series of new prints that contrast a straightforward grid of a house with its deconstructed counterpart. She builds on the idea by presenting three pieces that have a labyrinth within the home's frames. The straightforward Meditation, which features an undisturbed vision of this home, is flanked by Lost?, two deconstructed versions of that print depicting the home disheveled and bent out of shape. It's an obvious symbol of home and place — and lacking a home and place — but resonates strongly. Mixed-media artist Andrea Bianconi focuses on matters of the heart in his show "Romance," which presents a mix of sculpture and drawings that meditate on love. But despite the name, it's not very romantic, at least not in the typical saccharine sense. The main focal point is two vases, one black, the other white, that consist of flowers covered in glue and enamel. They are wilting in this mess, frozen in their decay. As another symbol, this one of love, they're fascinating, beautiful pieces. Anthony Thompson Shumate presents a series of textual pieces in "Sweetly Broken." In four works, enamel is hand-painted onto birch plywood to spell out what are essentially still lifes. "Two half-filled goblets obscured by an unruly, counterfeit ivy on a windowsill," reads one. "A ripe, swollen, nibbled peach rests alone, bleeding on a fresh table linen," reads another. Shumate could have drawn these compositions for us in the traditional sense, but instead he chooses to dictate them most ironically in overly artistic language. In an intriguing move, the text, and the image created by that text, are more important than the reproduction of the still life itself. Through November 9. 4411 Montrose, 713-520-9200. — MD

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