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Capsule Art Reviews: "Ewan Gibbs: Arlington National Cemetery," "[Houston Times Eight]," "Kathryn Kelley: "The uncontrollable nature of grief and forgiveness (or lack of)," "Mac Whitney: Sculptures and Paintings," "Maggie Taylor: No Ordinary Days"

"Ewan Gibbs: Arlington National Cemetery" Ewan Gibbs has turned his distinguishable pixelated drawing style on topics as diverse as the Statue of Liberty, the Chicago Ferris Wheel and hotel facades. Seemingly part-photography, part-drawing, his technique is inspired by grid-like knitting patterns the artist started incorporating into his work two decades ago to turn photographs, both found and his own, into drawings. One of his latest subjects is particularly inspired for his particular line of visual play: the Arlington National Cemetery. On a visit to the famous site, Gibbs was taken by the military cemetery's impressive landscape, from its rolling hills to centuries-old trees. In 16 drawings inspired by this visit on view in the lower level of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Law Building, he alternates between depicting landscapes and, in slightly smaller works, headstones. The landscapes are the more impressive pieces as Gibbs captures the ebb of the neat white rows of headstones on the cemetery's hills, as well as the more scattered arrangement of the markers. These are not giant drawings that try to overwhelm or impress you with scale. Rather, they are small, intimate, quiet and meditative. The headstones are less effective; the names, dates and epitaphs on the stone are difficult to make out. No amount of stepping back to let the image come into focus makes it any easier to bring the drawing together. That's partly the point, to turn these images into near abstractions, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating. Alongside Gibbs's drawings, the MFAH also has on view photographs by artists who have inspired Gibbs. The inclusion is a bit distracting and superfluous, though; there's no context as to why these particular photographs are included, and anyway, Gibbs's drawings are enough on their own to spend time with. Through February 10. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300. — MD

"[Houston Times Eight]" The Station Museum of Contemporary Art recently kicked off an ambitious new series called "HX8" ("Houston Times Eight"), wherein the museum curates a show of eight diverse, contemporary Houston artists. Fabio D'Aroma is like a modern-day Caravaggio. He presents a grotesque procession along all four walls. There are naked bodies with thin arms, knobby red elbows and knees, and distended stomachs that are engaged with curious symbolism. There's a peacock and a menorah in one painting, a watermelon, some rifles and a bag of charcoal in another. There's so much coded in there, and it's all done in such jaw-dropping detail, that it's all a bit confounding. Street artist Daniel Anguilu has left his telltale mark all over Midtown and brings his animal imagery inside for the museum show, painting an epic, abstract mural on a temporary wall constructed just for the exhibition to create separate, almost sacred spaces for each artist. Robert Pruitt's powerful portraits depict three strong, fully realized African-American women. Prince Varughese Thomas's conceptual works criticize the wars in the Middle East, representing the lives lost, both of civilians and soldiers, through white, ghostly pennies and names in charcoal, layered until the paper turns black. Lynn Randolph processes the death of her husband through ancient symbols of mortality — birds. Her grief is overwhelming and beautiful in the sheer amount of work she has created and the number of birds that fill the walls of her room. Floyd Newsum's distinct, naive style and dense collages are loaded with personal materials, from chalk to photographs and symbols of his family. Serena Lin Bush explores concepts of family and bonds between sisters and friends through a video installation. And Forrest Prince's works in wood and mirror are calls to "love" and "repent," though the most biting words go out to his fellow artists: "If the work you are doing isn't contributing to the restoration of peace on our Mother Earth, or the health and welfare of all the creatures on her, then you are wasting your life and everyone else's time." Amen. Through February 17. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900. — MD

"Kathryn Kelley: "The uncontrollable nature of grief and forgiveness (or lack of)" There's a lot going on in Kathryn Kelley's installation at Art League Houston. For starter's, there's the title — "The uncontrollable nature of grief and forgiveness (or lack of)" — which is accompanied by several stanzas of a poem on the gallery wall. Beyond text, in her exploration of grief and forgiveness, Kelley primarily employs materials that seem to be pulled straight from a junkyard. Pieces of wood have random hinges, and spools of rubber have even tracked in leaves. The rubber takes on various forms throughout the space, most prominently as three rubbery specters that cascade from the ceiling, with teal picture frames jutting out at odd angles. Attesting to their haunting quality, Kelley calls these "monsters in the attic." Floating planks of wood also play a starring role, suspended from the middle of the ceiling in a slight spiral shape like a bridge to nowhere. They look like thin fragments of doors, with doorknobs still attached. Other planks of reclaimed wood are used to create an impractical, wildly out-of-proportion chair. It even leans against the wall, discarded for its impracticality. A corner of the space is devoted to neat stacks of those teal picture frames and tubes of rubber. It looks like a version of the artist's workshop; her supplies are lined up for the taking. There's even a tool belt hanging from the wall, ready for work. As it relates to grief, there is a heaviness felt in the space, most prevalently in the dank, dark rubber that reaches up to the ceiling. There is a weightiness to these thick black forms. As for forgiveness, I haven't quite pieced that together yet, save for the notion that forgiveness often may follow grief (or, as the show's title implies, not). It's a difficult show to wrap your head around, from the poetic ramblings on the wall to the unusual materials, and it's not helped by the awkward, cluttered layout of the installation. And for all that there is in the relatively small space, there's also an unfinished quality to it. This might even be intentional. As with the uncontrollable nature of grief, there's always more material to work with. Through March 8. 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530. —MD

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