Abstractionist Tells the Story, But Leaves the Interpretation to the Viewer

(at left) When the Wheels Fall Off and (at right) Tender by David Preston Wells from his "Reverie" exhibit at G Gallery.
(at left) When the Wheels Fall Off and (at right) Tender by David Preston Wells from his "Reverie" exhibit at G Gallery.
Courtesy of the artist and G Gallery

It’s an embarrassment of riches over at G Gallery, with a multitude of colorful offerings by prolific gestural abstractionist David Preston Wells. Not all the works in his “Reverie” exhibit are necessarily new, but their vivid colors, layered composition and running themes of movement or transportation (boats, trains, automobiles) tie the works together into a beautifully textured body of work. Wells uses the title “Reverie” to suggest an undirected train of thought, a mental abstraction or waking dream. While his compositions contain many identifiable objects, their interpretation is left to the viewer.

When the Wheels Fall Off depicts a waterfront disaster, with a multi-storied structure succumbing to flames on the banks of a crystal blue body of water, with a person fleeing either the fire or a giant winged moth-like creature. With its arched entrances and Italianate feel, the scene could easily pass for a medieval event along the banks of the Adriatic or Tyrrhenian Seas.

Moving forward in time, Tender features a motorboat in the same crystalline water, this time approaching Wells’s trademark picture-within-a-picture technique: the interior of a modern dwelling introduced to the canvas within a frame. The technique is seen again in Inside-Out, with boats floating on orange sherbet into the rock-filled window while a wheel burns.

(at left) Red Light and (at right) Ornament by David Preston Wells from his "Reverie" exhibit at G Gallery.
(at left) Red Light and (at right) Ornament by David Preston Wells from his "Reverie" exhibit at G Gallery.
Courtesy of the artist and G Gallery

Somewhat darker in mood is Red Light, with almost half the canvas plunged into darkness in what appears to be the aftermath of a vehicular accident. Springs and coils are tossed; there’s a bent grill and flying wheels, along with blood-red streaks and a green panel with a sky-filled window. Similar motion is found in Ornament, which features a tilted snow globe spinning free of its base with colorful bits careening off into the atmosphere.

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It’s a fun exhibit – both in trying to tell the story behind the paintings, as well as the more basic joy found in the bright colors and non-political messages. Standouts include It’s a Novelty, with its striped Möbius strip and party favors exploding in front of the floating glass reflection of an elephant; the seafoam-colored boxcars winding their way through the patterned cubist landscape in Train; and the precipitous river flanked by the dock and jumbled squares of architecture in One Step. Childhood memories are evoked with the Creamsicle®-colored Swing, showing the simple playground equipment of two ropes and a board; and Skinny Legs, which could either represent a sock monkey or the demise of the Wicked Witch of the East with bats reflected in the glass. This latter painting is a bit harder to explain; the purple-gloved hand might explain why some viewers informally named the painting Spank the Monkey.

The exhibit also contains a dozen drawings of graphite on paper; they’re rendered with a delicate, light touch. From the meticulously drawn lattice picnic basket of Woven to the pointed roof roundhouse of Sill, the works stay true to the artist’s personal visual vocabulary.

“Reverie” continues through September 2, at G Gallery, 301 East 11th, open Wednesdays to Sundays, noon to 5 p.m., 713-869-4770, ggalleryhouston.com.


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