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Capsule Art Reviews: September 4, 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

"Aloe Vera: group show" Gray Contemporary is a new gallery in the Houston Design Center, large, high-ceilinged and beautifully air-conditioned. Several paintings are quite bright and colorful, with Shape Study 8 (Three Sides), by Christopher Derek Bruno, the most intriguing. It has four three-dimensional vertical square pillars, with the front panel of each white, but each side panel colored and different; it's a work meant to be viewed from several angles, suggesting a cheerful artist at play. Nathan Westerman shows three colorful circles, consisting of multicolored, horizontal stripes. All seem similar, but one pops out, Slat Painting 014.005, which has a yellow stripe in the top half that makes all the difference in the world. Dmitri Obergfell has an apparently simple mosaic, Crystal plane (penrose), which turns out to be complex and fascinating. It has a trompe l'oeil effect, as it is composed of scores of individual metal tiles, each anchored to the wall, but the spaces between, which are open, seem to be the metal framework one would see in a stained-glass window. The individual tiles form boxes, creating a series of optical illusions; it is the work of a wizard, magical. Deborah Zlotsky's The Artist is complex, with central grays and peripheral blues and orange, and structurally an interlocking of an irregularly shaped cube, rectangles and curves added to soften the impact. It has intelligence and rich composition. Douglas Witmer has a number of works, with The Hour Grows Late most accessible, made up of two deep-blue broad horizontal stripes against a grayish-white background, seemingly worn on the edges — as though time had passed and a lot had happened. Through September 5. 7026 Old Katy Rd., Suite 253, 713-862-4425, graycontemporary.com. — JJT

"Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris" Charles Marville was an early and prolific photographer of old Paris, commissioned to record the before, during and after of Emperor Napoleon III's radical transformation that remade a medieval city into the first modern one. But these aren't the rose-tinted images of the City of Light we've come to love. Working from the 1850s to the 1870s, Marville made 425 often haunting images of a city about to be, and in the process of being, ripped apart to create the honey-hued boulevards we love today. The streets he shows us are eerily devoid of people. This is partly a result of the technical limitations of early photography — long exposure times meant that people in motion became only ghostly smudges. But the people weren't the point. In fact, the lives lived in those streets were irrelevant — obstacles to be displaced or crushed as the Baron Haussmann carried out the Emperor's orders to re-create Paris as his modern stage for imperial grandeur. We know what Paris would become, but the few people who stand stark still in these photos didn't. The Paris they knew was about to be destroyed, and that tension gives the photos much of their power. Marville didn't often present his photographs as art. For him, photography was a livelihood. But he was an artist to the core, and the art crept in. Through September 14. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300, mfah.org. — RT

Shape Study 8: Three Sides by Christopher Derek Bruno
Gray Contemporary
Shape Study 8: Three Sides by Christopher Derek Bruno

"From the Pinnacle to the Prize" Two artists with dramatically different approaches are showing at the Mariago Collective. Ariane Roesch shifts shapes normally rigid into softer contours, and adds an inner luminosity. Scott Proctor states: "...what we are all thinking about...butts, balls, boobs, blobs and sweat stains...right? Or is it just me?" The contrast is between celestial and earthy, between romantic and pragmatic. The first floor is given over to Roesch, with the major piece being Rung by Rung, a soft vinyl ladder of nine rungs, displayed on the floor and covered in old-fashioned vinyl. LED lights enhance the rungs, making it welcoming, as though the artist had decreed: "No more hardness; the world will be soft." Yet there is another dimension, as this ladder is certainly treacherous. Kiss is another ladder, this one erect, free-standing and A-shaped, with five rungs and an endearing floral vinyl. On the second level, many of Proctor's glazed ceramics consist of two globes, side by side, inviting speculation on whether a work represents voluptuous boobs or a butt. The ceramics usually have a topping, much like chocolate syrup on an ice cream scoop. Peppermint Bottom is attractive because of its rich color, though I liked the warm strength of Peaches even better. Some pieces are wall-hung, others on pedestals, but these seemed more pedestrian, ponderous, as opposed to the lighthearted jubilation of those on the walls. It's clear that Proctor believes in William Blake's proverb: "The lust of the goat is the bounty of God." Through September 6. 1707 Waugh, 832-997-6102, themariagocollective.com. — JJT

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1 comments
diptibahuguna13
diptibahuguna13

Just like Charles Marville recorded the medieval city into modern one, you can also capture your your room and transform into medieval times by using medieval home decor.

 
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