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"John Cage: Prints, Drawings, and a Music Box" If there's one word John Cage is associated with, it's chance. It's crucial to the experience of his signature work, the silent composition 4'33", as well as his process in a variety of mediums. Cage relied on chance in the composition of both his music and his visual artwork, something he turned to mid-career with his first piece, Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel (A + B), which consists of two color lithographs, and explored up until his death in 1992. His very last piece, Extended Lullaby, a neat row of a dozen music boxes, was completed posthumously in 1994. Hiram Butler Gallery has both of these works on display in its current show, a collection of prints, drawings and that interactive music box installation. Cage was famously known to consult the classic Chinese text the I Ching during each step of his process, whether he was writing a song or making etchings on paper. And though it isn't obvious just from looking at them, this influence is behind the construction of the prints and drawings on display at Hiram Butler. Cage made The Missing Stone, for instance, by asking the I Ching questions on the type of brush he should use, the color of the paint and the thickness of the brushstrokes. The resulting etching is sparse and looks loosely like calligraphy. A similar process is also behind the making of his "edible drawings" — paper composed of various herbs and plants. Cage used the book to sort a variety of herbs into recipes, and through the papermaking process, they were randomly scattered in his drawing. Again, what may come across as deliberate choices is pure happenstance. Cage almost seems to be taking the easy way out with these drawings, freeing himself of the burden of choice and letting the I Ching make his decisions for him. But in the end, it's a much more laborious process that belies the light, easy manner of the drawings. Plus, Cage has to know what questions to ask in the first place. His seeming non-intentionality makes you think about how many choices go into a single piece of art, as well as all the happy accidents that come about because an artist did something not with intent but rather by mistake. The possibilities are almost paralyzing; consulting the I Ching seems like a pretty good solution. Chance plays a major role in his music box installation, but rather than rely on an ancient classic text, Cage needs your help to complete the work. In Eternal Lullaby, 12 music box mechanisms are contained within an acrylic tube, each designed to play random notes. With a gentle tap on a lever, you can start the music box's non-melodic tune. You can choose to get as many of these music boxes going as you like (some may need to be wound), but two or three at once gives you a chance to really listen. The resulting lullaby won't likely be one that you'd want to lull you to sleep — the discordant tones can get pretty eerie — but sometimes, amazingly, they strike a pleasant chord. By chance, of course. Through March 30. 4520 Blossom, 713-863-7097. — MD

"Jonathan Leach: Time Does Not Exist Here" The year 2012 was a pretty good one for Jonathan Leach. The artist's work was in nearly a dozen shows from Portland to San Antonio. But mostly he was all over Houston, including a fine art fair, a major survey of the contemporary Houston painting scene and a show displaying the collection of major Houston donors. Now, 2013 is looking pretty good, too, as Leach kicks it off with his second solo exhibit at Gallery Sonja Roesch. By one indicator, the show was so popular, the gallery ran out of wine. Why is Leach, as evidenced his omnipresence and fans' imbibing, so popular? For one thing, there's his urban aesthetic inspired by Houston, among other cities. His geometric paintings evoke streetscapes and office buildings while still being abstract. He also employs bold neon colors that are light-years away from Mondrian's primary hues. There is a balance to his lines and colors, too. No matter how vivid or potentially dizzying they get, they still ground you. One of the most striking things about Leach's paintings is the fact that they are, indeed, paintings. They are so clean and straight that they seem manufactured. They are perfect — the outcome of meticulous taping, painting and many a night spent puzzling over their composition and color. Leach's paintings take up the bulk of your attention, but they are also joined by some works on paper. These look like blueprints for his canvases, the faint ink drawings depicting 3-D forms that transform the pages. The Houston artist also has a few of his signature Plexiglas sculptures on hand. These bring his 3-D effect to a whole new level as his bold lines overlap, intersect and bend across the clear planes of the Plexiglas. Most intriguing of all these is C.I.T.E. Object, a rectangular piece that features bright blue, pink and clear zigzagging lines against black spray paint that nearly engulfs the Plexiglas, but Leach leaves enough negative space to make it interesting. Fittingly, the sculpture is placed near the painting Dark Device, another work that's primarily black. Given the strong city connotation in his work, it feels as if nighttime has descended over this part of the gallery, and a whole new dimension of Leach's universe is brought masterfully to life. Through April 27. 2309 Caroline, 713-659. — MD

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