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Capsule Art Reviews: "Demiak: The Big Blow," "Flying Solo," "J. Todd Allison: Unresting," "Jonathan Faber: Surface," "Peat Duggins: Wreaths"

"Demiak: The Big Blow" Maarten Demmink was born in the Netherlands, honed his craft at art schools in the Netherlands and currently lives in the Netherlands. But the multimedia artist's work is anything but provincial. In a solo show currently up at Redbud Gallery, the artist, who goes by the name Demiak, makes work that references regions as diverse as New Orleans; Punjab, Pakistan; Lisbon, Portugal; and Breezy Point, New York. These are oil paintings and watercolor pieces that depict destroyed houses and flooded streets. These pieces have the look of aged photographs, complete with burned edges, white splotches and yellow coloring. But the trick's on you — they are neither photographs nor old; they have all been painted by Demiak within the past year or so. They depict the aftermath of hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters around the world — "the big blow," to borrow the name of the exhibition. Each piece is named after a location and a year, leaving you to guess which historic "big blow" the piece is depicting. The image of a flooded street titled "New Orleans 2005" is naturally Hurricane Katrina, a pile of rubble called "Breezy Point, New York 2012" Hurricane Sandy. The paintings are small like archival prints usually are, too. Nothing here is overblown or overwhelms you. Like the wooden houses, everything is on an intimate, knowable scale. There's never the same perspective, either. The works range from street-level close-ups to aerial views, further adding to this archival feel, as if a different person had made each document. Why go through such pains to replicate images of disaster when so many already exist? It seems as if Demiak, by giving all of his works this aged quality, is trying to make us pause and contemplate the image and give the type of reverence these archival prints usually receive as historical relics. There is no shortage of images from disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, one after the other depicting destruction and human suffering on an epic scale. But such an overload can be desensitizing. By depicting them differently than you could ever expect to experience them, Demiak makes you take time to really look at them and see them differently, too. Through December 30. 303 East 11th St., 713-862-2532. — MD

"Flying Solo" One of my first reactions to seeing the names involved in "Flying Solo," a new group exhibition at Art League Houston featuring Houston artists who aren't represented by a commercial gallery, was surprise that so many of them aren't represented. The seven artists included offer such unique, distinct voices, and, just because they're underrepresented, in a sense, doesn't mean they've been flying under the radar by any means. Just take Daniel Anguilu. In addition to the Art League show, in just the past few months, the muralist has been included in group shows of Houston artists at the Station Museum and Cardoza Fine Arts and was one of the artists who participated in the repainting of Lawndale Art Center's outside wall. In fact, he's pretty much synonymous with Midtown, thanks to the omnipresence of his distinctive animalistic murals. The other six free agents in the show, thoughtfully curated by Art League Visual Arts Director Jennie Ash to offer a diversity of mediums, subject matter and techniques, similarly have long résumés filled with runs at prestigious museums, residencies and MFA programs. Ann Wood stands out with two visceral pieces — a collage of two aggressive-looking horses in rapture, literal hearts floating from the charged piece, and her taxidermic pig installation — it's pretty in pink covered in glitter, but absolutely grotesque at the same time, thanks to some spilled "blood" and broken teeth. Lawndale Art Center resident Patrick Turk works on a smaller, more contained scale. His three-dimensional electronic sculptures are illuminated by LED lights and use magnifying glasses like little portholes onto the images of snakes, birds and bugs. The lone photographer, Chuy Benitez, turns his lens on Occupy Wall Street with his panoramic visions of protest and prayer. Lovie Olivia is harder to define — her two totem paintings, one of which intriguingly forgoes any traditional sense of portraiture and focuses exclusively on a tattooed woman's backside, employ a fresco-like technique that consists of layers of plaster, paint and printmaking. Fernando Ramirez's drawings are more straightforward in design — acrylic marker and pencil — but they create dense cities crowded with dynamic faces. Multimedia artist Emily Sloan's contributions are polar opposites and would seem born of two different minds — one is a messy, colorful portal, the other a stark steel form — if they weren't united by their lampshade-esque design. The exhibition starts and ends with Anguilu, from his color mural on Art League's front entrance to three works in the space's hallway consisting of spray paint and grids of wood, as if attempting to domesticate the graffiti. It's a very fresh show — all of the work is from this year. That, coupled with the unsigned angle, gives off this finger-on-the-pulse sense of discovery that's exciting. Ultimately, though, the show's conceit makes you wonder what the artists' defining collective lack of commercial representation is supposed to mean. Is the show an urgent call to sign these artists now? Or is it more a "We're doing just fine, thanks but no thanks" snub of the commercial art world? It seems to be a little bit of both, attempting to remain neutral and straddle both lines, which is a little frustrating. Of course, the real indicator will be whether any of these talented artists fly solo for much longer. Through January 4. 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530. — MD

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