"Lisa Ludwig: Black Black Forest" Lisa Ludwig made a name for herself making cake sculptures out of sugar cubes and crafting enchanting, elaborate installations. One of her most memorable shows at Moody Gallery involved a field of silica in the center of the gallery that sprouted barren trees and had crystalline apples lying in the "snow." Over the course of a 20-plus-year career, of course, interests evolve. And in her latest show at the Colquitt space — her seventh — Ludwig's sculptures are composed of more traditional — and permanent — materials (porcelain), and they line the gallery walls on shelves and pedestals in an ordinary fashion. Still, that doesn't make them any less strange and intriguing. Despite what the show's name might imply, in "Black Black Forest," there is a striking absence of black — or any color whatsoever. All the pieces are stark white, just the color of the porcelain after it came out of the kiln. The only color comes from tulips that occupy three of Ludwig's functional vases. Though they are devoid of any color, the sculptures are so minutely detailed, they aren't lost to the white walls. The animals and objects they depict are instantly recognizable, too. Ludwig's forest is teeming with toads, birds, mice, snakes and rabbits surrounded by matches, spools of thread, even sweet gherkin pickles — she is that specific. The animals aren't dead, stoic things, either; they have a sense of purpose and even diligence as they go about their business. Snakes coil through twigs. A bird surrounded by spools of thread has a needlepoint in its mouth. Rabbits stand upright holding branches or blindfolds, some quixotically sporting these blindfolds themselves. As the crafter of these mysterious scenes, Ludwig doesn't provide any overt clues to the little dramas at play — all 13 sculptures are untitled. Still, the fact that these colorless porcelain sculptures are teeming with such life and curiosity is impressive. All the color that's needed is in the craft. Through March 23. 2815 Colquitt, 713-526-9911. — MD

"Maggie Taylor: No Ordinary Days" Maggie Taylor's brand of photomontage is a fascinating mix of old and new forms of photography that results in even more fascinating images. Since 1996, the Florida artist has been working with Photoshop, taking advantage of its imaging magic to create pictures that are truly surreal, strange and, yes, magical. She starts with 19th-century tintypes, photographs and other images she's acquired from flea markets, antique stores, eBay or other artists. She scans and then manipulates them in Photoshop, colorizing and layering the originals with her own photographs and other images she's come across. In what takes only seconds to describe, Taylor will spend weeks, often months manipulating a single piece, adding upwards of 60 layers or more. Thirty of these resulting images are on display at Catherine Couturier Gallery, timed to the publication of a new book of Taylor's works titled No Ordinary Days. Indeed, these pieces are anything but ordinary. Taylor's work is often described using the word "dreamscapes," but it's difficult to tell whether it's born of dreams or nightmares. In her alternate, unsettling realities, bees can magically coordinate to form a dress; a swimmer walks a cloud; a child tears her head in two as if it's a piece of paper; pigs fly; animals, flowers and leaves explode out of the back of a man's head; and landscapes are paradoxically lit like in Magritte's Empire of Light, the sky light as day while the land is in the shadows of darkness. They're by turns delightful and bizarre, but they're oddly compelling in their strangeness. They seem like illustrations to fairy tales or children's stories, full of whimsy, beauty and originality. And like any good tale, they leave you questioning your own sense of what's possible. Through March 16. 2635 Colquitt, 713-524-5070. — MD

"Rosa Loy: Souvenir" In describing Rosa Loy's work, artist Helmut Klarner writes that "the seemingly representational fails to explain itself." That does so well to describe the experience of looking at Loy's paintings that I couldn't help quoting it here. Nearly 30 recent paintings and drawings by the German artist are on display at McClain Gallery in "Souvenir," her first exhibition in Texas. Loy's work is often accompanied by the adjective "feminine," and it's easy to see why. The subjects of her paintings are all women — long-haired women, short-haired women, dreaming women, mischievous women playing with fire, levitating women. Loy also often puts her women in domestic settings — houses appear frequently, including on the top of two flying women's shoulders in "Saat des Schweigenssaat." Clearly, these are no ordinary women and no ordinary paintings. They seem to reference a specific folklore, each painting like a page out of a book, but it's one of Loy's own creation. She mischievously leaves us trying to craft our own meaning and narratives from these mysterious images and their names (titles like "Humility" and "Comfort" provide contextual clues). It feels as if you're visually reading a book, one that's sometimes in a different language. More important to Loy than the meaning of these narratives, however, is the form — the color and composition of her paintings. And however strange, curious or befuddling they are, they are still a pleasure to look at. Loy paints with the rarely used casein, a water-soluble paint derived from milk that gives her canvases a surprisingly traditional look. The colors are muted and soft while at the same time incredibly rich. They are quite stunning to behold. Through March 2. 2242 Richmond. 713-520-9988. — MD

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