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"Janice Jakielski: Constructing Solitude" Janice Jakielski's work somehow manages to feel both futuristic and Victorian at the same time. Her colorful headdresses on display at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft are quite photogenic, embroidered prettily with birds and adorned with paper flowers. They also feature some curious fashion choices: coffee mug halves that surround the eyes, wide ribbons that obscure the ears and even a bonnet made for two, each separate headdress connected by a striped portal in a way that forces each wearer's back to the other. These dozen or so hats are purposefully exaggerated, their impracticality meant to enforce a sense of isolation on the wearer. The exhibition is even titled "Constructing Solitude," and sets out to explore how a minor change or two from the norm can radically alter our view of the world. Or something like that. It all can be a bit of a leap. You have to go from merely admiring the skill and craftsmanship in these headdresses to imagining wearing them and how that might feel. It doesn't help that the headdresses are placed at varying heights on the walls, and the taller they are, the harder it is to really examine them. Some key references are also unclear and don't seem to readily serve the piece. The flowers are meant to signify floriography, a Victorian-era practice in which flowers were used to send messages, while the birds are a reference to auspicium — a form of divination that looks to the flight patterns of birds for signs. That's nice, but to what end? Jakielski does give museum-goers the chance to experience, rather than imagine, her work by setting up an interactive installation in the middle of the gallery space. In "Across the Divide," three pairs of handmade binoculars look upon these miniature porcelain nature scenes, which include a pile of leaves and what looks like a cornfield and some weeds. The idea is that when you look through the binoculars, someone else has the opportunity to look through the other pair and you can experience this act of viewing together. Of course, that only works if there's another person there to look through the binoculars with you and you both somehow know what to do. Otherwise there's little to guide you through the intended experience of this piece, which can lead you to look on in confusion or ignore it all together. Through May 5. 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — 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

"Territorial Pissings" Geoff Hippenstiel has a most risky process: When he has a perfectly good painting, he intentionally messes it up to create a problem he then has to solve. It's a method that could potentially ruin a work, but lucky for us, it results in paintings that are richly detailed and engaging. Engaging hardly seems a strong enough word to describe what it's like to process a Hippenstiel. The longer you look at any of the five untitled works currently on display in "Territorial Pissings" at Devin Borden Gallery, the more you see. You're left with a completely different painting than when you first approached. That's because the abstract works are layered with unexpected colors and markings that are waiting to be discovered, even after you've lived with them. They are thick with impasto, like the end result of some volcanic eruption that's spilled lime green, purple, red, gold and blue across the canvases in spurts. The canvases are massive, too; in a gallery equipped with 14-foot-high ceilings, the eight-foot-tall paintings don't seem all that big, but they are towering works. As you move clockwise from the left in the gallery, the paintings intentionally become more abstract. The first one you encounter — a smattering of markings in the shape of a skull — is a rare work for Hippenstiel, who's known for his impressive, large-scale abstract works and doesn't get this representational. He's making a statement, showing us he has some surprises up his sleeve and making his mark in something other than abstraction (hence the show's title, "Territorial Pissings," which is pulled from a Nirvana song title). While the skull is a clear subject, Hippenstiel conceals his inspiration in his other paintings, burying it under layers of oil and even spray paint. A Goya-shaped award statue is the starting point for at least one painting, the faint outline of a gold-hued face just there under the surface. Other seemingly monochromatic paintings bury colors that slowly reveal themselves to you. A giant gold piece seems pretty straightforward at first glance, but the longer you stay with it, the more tints of green and orange appear and it suddenly becomes a whole new painting. Magic? Nope, just a hell of a good painter. Through April 27. 3917 Main, 713-529-2700. — MD

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