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Capsule Art Reviews: August 14, 2014

Allison Rathan: The Cutting Bridle The Exchange, 60"x48", is a self-portrait of the artist Allison Rathan striding behind a very large wolf on a metal leash. It captures the confidence of this artist, who has blond movie-star looks and the poise and litheness of a fashion model. The leash holder has a slit skirt that exposes a graceful leg, and her left hand is lightly cupping her left breast, a reminder that we are living in a world where sensuality rules. I've Come Home Now echoes the dark power of Wuthering Heights as a man inside a castle embraces a woman through an open window. That Night is a more complex picture; a woman wearing cut-off jeans stands in front of a chain-link fence, with the shadow of the chains reflected on her clothing and even her skin. Her face is not shown, but her back reveals intensity, power, danger — and perhaps fear of being encaged. Or, more likely, she is. Elsewhere in the gallery is a rusty white birdcage, empty, with the door open, so escape is possible. Reinless has another provocative beauty on a horse, her skirt flying. Rathan has a series of small portraits of heads; one, titled Foundling, has the look of a very young dark-haired beauty-to-come whose haunting expression indicates resignation, anticipation and hidden power. I liked best a departure for Rathan, The Red Balloon, a depiction of a charming village street that extends well into the distance. I suggest viewing this both up close and from afar; both will delight. Through September 4. Archway Gallery, 2305 Dunlavy, 713-522-2409, archwaygallery.com. — JJT

"Altered Angles: George Grochocki & Shayne Murphy" Two very different painters are having their work shown at the sleek Anya Tish Gallery — both take chances, and are courageous. George Grochocki seems minimalist but gives a lot, relying on three-dimensional shaping and the wit of almost-hidden color accents to add drama. All Quantities are Straight Unity is all white and has two vertical pillars, each with four varying recesses. This could be a maquette for a futuristic apartment house, or for an IKEA bookcase to house computers that will one day dominate us with elegance of design. His color accents come into play in Pluralities of the Plane Fall into the Unity of Shape, white with some black, where a small panel of pale gold color seems to want to escape a confining structure. Shayne Murphy has two paintings suggesting action figures from a graphic novel. Their titles, Blight and Calamity, hint at deeper meanings, which escape me, but I admired their vivid vigor. Remains of a Grimace has an air of mystery, purple globules piled behind restricting fragmented walls. St. Helena's Discotheque is my favorite, a building and its sidewalk floating mid-air like a figment of the imagination, but detailed in its depiction of trees and their shadows, with large blue vanes on a seemingly authentic roof — the vanes are yellow and purple on the edges. There is a solitary walking male figure who's wearing a shirt emblazoned with what I took to be the flag of Italy, with green, white and red vertical stripes. The work reveals the richness of Murphy's imagination, his dexterity and a cheerful outlook devoutly to be encouraged. Through August 15. 4411 Montrose, 713-524-2299, anyatishgallery.com. — JJT

The Beat'n Trail It's wonderful to enter a gallery and be struck immediately by a powerful work, my experience with an exhibition of Texas artists at the Alliance Gallery of the Houston Arts Alliance. The striking visual is a sculpture by Katie Pell titled Charming Are Your Unformed Wishes, a number of large wooden links, some curled on the floor, others interlocking and rising to the ceiling, to be continued even there. It was inspired by a family heirloom, a locket, and it gains enormously by its size. The wood is warm, making the links an ornament instead of a chain, and its immensity suggests a generosity of spirit and a richly expansive personality. George Zupp has a fabulous sense of humor that carries through into his art. He has a large wooden sculpture of a man in a casket, rough-hewn and open at the top to show the man's zombie-like face. It is also open below the waist to permit a large wooden column to protrude upward, unrealistically large, with a hatchet buried in its top. The work is titled, appropriately, The Last Woody, and has the primitive strength of folk art. Zupp has created a continuing character, a chimp, and the portrait of it here is titled Jolly Chimp, though the lettering over its head reads "Fail." The chimp is holding clashing cymbals, and has a wide-eyed air of rapt attention, as though trying to figure out a concept beyond its capacity to grasp. Zupp has several other works here as well, priced modestly. Other artists showing are Kenny Lantz, Steve Neves, Vachu Chilakamarri and Meredith "Butch" Jack. Through August 29. 3201 Allen Parkway, Suite 125, 713-581-6120, houstonartsalliance.com. — JJT

This chimp is a continuing theme for artist George Zupp.
Photo courtesy of Marc Newsome.
This chimp is a continuing theme for artist George Zupp.

"lntroducing Elizabeth Fox" The d.m. allison gallery is dedicated to the exploration of emerging talent, as well as serving as a venue for established artists. Its group show features the works of Elizabeth Fox, whose paintings have a sprightly, highly contemporary look. The men are all fit and the women slender, with great anatomies, made clear by tight-fitting garments. Fox has a dry, subtle wit — Wish You Were Here has an attractive, mature couple in front of a birdhouse on a tree, with flying love birds and apparent domestic tranquility, while a streaming banner gives the woman's actual sardonic thought: "omg not another walk of shame...lol I could just." She is dying with amusement at the folly of men. Mystery Train has a woman putting her attaché case in the overhead rack while four men in a row, wearing suits and fedora hats, read newspapers, though two are secretly watching her. If the men give her any trouble, I have no doubt she can handle it. Jesse Lott is an African-American sculptor of great distinction who works with armatures and wire while building in the capacity for emotional power. His sculpture here dominates the gallery, presenting a man overcome with anguish. One artist, living under a bridge, offers his name as Hercules da Vinci. His Hollywood Hills, oil on a paper napkin, has a charming and subtle blend of colors, some figurative birds, and an insouciant cheerfulness that many might envy. Ann Harithas has a deceptively simple picture, an orange plane against a blue background, with a cowboy, and a tortured monk holding a football, a work as enigmatic as consciousness itself. Though August 30. 2709 Colquitt, 832-607-4378, dma-art.com. — JJT

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