Capsule Art Reviews: "A Golden Time of Day," "Interstitial Spaces: Julia Barello & Beverly Penn," "New Prints: Gallery Artists," "Perry House: Elegance/Violence," "Six Apart," "UNIT," "Woven Landscapes"
"A Golden Time of Day" There is a great little photograph of Sammy Davis Jr. up at McClain Gallery now. It's pop perfection — the musician is decked out in a red vest and shoes, his arms out to his sides and his left foot kicked up in a freeze-frame dance pose. The fact that the image, by celebrity photog Milton H. Greene, is included in a group show about the use of gold in contemporary art, with nary any gold in sight, may be a bit perplexing at first. But as this exhibition shows, "golden" can be as much a use of color as a mood or feeling. Houston artist Tierney Malone inspired the name of the exhibition with his work Golden Time of Day, which is, curiously, a mostly red piece — a blood-red board with the text "golden time of day" written across it in a gold, upper-case stencil that gives the work an almost reverent feel, the propriety of this font contrasting the rugged, imperfect quality of the board. Christian Eckart''s Detail Painting #538 is what can be described as gold on gold — a square, textured panel of gold paint displayed in a gold frame. Other stand-out pieces in this pleasantly diverse show include Jonathan Seliger's humorous Golden Pavilion, a stack of gold-plated bronze in the shape of those mass-produced, disposable Chinese take-out boxes; Jenny Holzer's Amber Essays, a ridiculously thin electronic LED sign with scrolling, blinking gold text; and Karin Broker's heart on hold — an intricate, wired mess of vintage gold and pink rhinestone jewelry in the shape of a heart, encased in a glass box. Through August 18. 2242 Richmond, 713-520-9988. — MD
"Interstitial Spaces: Julia Barello & Beverly Penn" The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft's inspired current show, "Interstitial Spaces," brings together Julia Barello and Beverly Penn in their first collaborative installation. This is such a natural pairing that it makes for a cohesive, rich, full show, even with only nine pieces on view. The two artists make skillful, sculptural wall works. Barello's materials of choice are X-ray and MRI films, which she cuts and dyes to look like delicate flora — they seem to sprout from the wall, they're so textured and alive. Penn, meanwhile, takes real plants, then freezes and casts them in bronze to capture every curl or twist. The resulting pieces have such a lightness to them, it's surprising and impressive to find out that they're bronze. Each of the artists' works have a sense of wild about them that's still nonetheless contained — Barello's flowers and trees are neat and trim, while Penn's threads are sprawling like unruly weeds yet still contained, whether in perfect circles or straight, exact lines. Their sensibilities combine wonderfully in a new collaborative wall installation made just for the center that stretches the length of the main wall. It's massive — you can't take it all in at once, but have to walk along, taking it in as you move through the space. It's called Submerged, and the film and bronze do seem to move together fluidly, like water or, similarly, a wind current. What really comes through here and in the other exhibition works is the ways the pieces interact with the spaces they don't occupy. Around each twist of a bronze or film flower, there's emptiness in the form of the white wall. As the name of the show implies, these between, or interstitial, spaces are as important as the works themselves. Through September 1. 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — MD
"New Prints: Gallery Artists" With just enough space to display a single work, the entryway in Inman Gallery has always served as an alluring preview of what's to come in the main gallery. And for its summer show, this piece is one roller coaster of a print. Emily Joyce's Fuchsia Rose in Mike Kelley's Garden or Schooner 1 is a dizzying spiral vortex, a fuchsia-pink-red bull's-eye. It's a flat, top-down view of the flower, an apparent ode to the late installation artist, that sucks you right in. Joyce is one of six artists in Inman's current ArtHouston and PrintHouston show, which explores printmaking practices in contemporary art by some gallery regulars. Jason Salavon is known for his portrait amalgamations, in which he uses self-designed computer software to create the average composite of multiple, related photographs. His Portrait (Hals), a composite of self-portraits by Dutch master painter Frans Hals, has that identifiable, soft look of a Dutch Golden Age painting, but, with Hals's face blurry and undefined, there's a ghostly quality to the print that makes you pause. There's some modern magic going on here. Darren Waterston also brings some experimentation with his "tondos," or circular works. In No. 6, he has a nondescript landscape monotype, but it's been invaded by a dripping splotch of bright-blue paint around the lower left. It's a simple detail that elevates the work. On the more traditional side, there's a nine-color lithograph by David Aylsworth, Gee, But It's Good to Be Here, and Dario Robleto's Will the Sun Remember at All, an epic grid of nine archival digital prints that takes up an entire wall. Through August 18. 3901 Main, 713-526-7800. — MD
"Perry House: Elegance/Violence" Perry House is all about opposites — he strives to create images that are beautiful and disturbing, elegant and violent, exploring construction and destruction, bordering realism and abstraction, and walking the line between "horror and humor," as he says. His giant retrospective at the Art Car Museum spans House's 30-plus years of painting. It includes several of his most recognizable series — the most well-known being his surrealist Southern Dinner Series, composed of amoebic, loudly patterned plates that bend around the edges like bedpans and are set against loudly patterned backdrops of fish and flowers. This series is barely ten years old, but already House has moved way past his distorted Fiestaware and returned full circle to a preoccupation of his earlier in his career — landscapes, which are all noted by a mysterious date (2.20.11, 6.3.11 and so on). These are not the overwrought, wreckage-filled landscapes of his Aftermath Series but something more abstract — two-dimensional cityscapes. In an age of 3-D everything, there's something disconcerting, and arresting, about their flatness. With a 1980s graffiti vibe (must be all that neon), they're disjointed and distorted. House has said he doesn't think too much about color when he paints, but these recent paintings have such a strong sense of pigment that you may easily refer to them as the blue one or the red one. Meanwhile, his black-and-white ink drawings, wherein he essentially forgoes a palette altogether, are especially alluring. Through September 2. 140 Heights Blvd., 713-861-5526. — MD
"Six Apart" This new exhibition at Barbara Davis Gallery is part of ArtHouston, an annual festival that strives to liven up the slow, hot summer art scene with fresh works from emerging artists. Thinking of it in those terms, this miscellaneous little show, featuring work by six very different artists, succeeds. Lisbon's Sara Bichão contributes a bold red 3-D wall sculpture, f.nyc, a dripping, diamond-shaped piece that juts out as if some bloody extension of the white gallery wall. It consists of concrete and glue, making for a rough, raw feel. Houston's Daniel McFarlane sets rigid, wooden geometric shapes against solid backgrounds of automotive paint and then adds oozing layers of acrylic paint in various colors. There's great tension in these planes, which seem to float in vivid time and space. Houston artist Ruth Shouval's Fragile series consists of two very different takes on a house. In two pairs of prints, Shouval depicts a house in the most basic, elementary way possible — 11 thick black lines — and then as an abstraction of itself, the lines running crooked, ruined and completely unstable on a crumbled piece of paper. It's simple yet elegant, this contrast of calm and chaos, and is one of the strongest parts of the show. Jon Swindler of Athens, Georgia, displays The Unfortunate Nature of Lithography #5, an installation of cascading poplar frames that display lithographs of related imagery. They're all tied to a drawing of what appears to be an elephant stuffed animal, though there's hardly a perfect print among them. Some are blackened, others off-center. They're the visual "left-overs," as Swindler calls them, the mistakes he's made in the process, displayed for all to see. It's a documentation of his failure, which is such a brave, funny and useful idea. The show also features Edward Schexnayder's perplexing wall-mounted abstract sculptures and Troy Stanley's Forest, Tree, Line — four wooden boxes with two-way mirrors. Through August 25. 4411 Montrose, 713-520-9200. — MD
"UNIT" Well, right now you can see more than 30 prints and editions from the online UNIT art shop in person in a new show at Gallery Sonja Roesch. It's a fitting location — UNIT is run by Houston artist Ariane Roesch, whose mother, Sonja, founded the gallery. It's the first of an annual summer show featuring works available on the site that include handmade limited-edition prints, products and publications. A quick run of the place introduces you to Cody Ledvina's Crawdad Ledvina EXPERIENCE, a display of DVD cases that tell a story through the covers (the video itself will be screened at the end of the exhibition's run); Mary Magsamen and Stephan Hillerbrand's Stuffed, a pillow case printed with the photograph of an intimidating ball of possessions; and Myke Venable's 12 tins, a line of black, diamond-shaped tins descending from the ceiling, attached to the wall with magnets. There are plenty of memorable prints, too; standouts include Gissette Padilla's Malicious Compliance, a "passive aggressive" lithography inspired by comic-book drawings; Mark Ponder's Cope, Not Hope series — ink drawings featuring overused, positive words like "wonderful" and "great" in a childlike bubble font surrounded by balloons and hearts, the dead, deflated balloons suggesting something darker; and Kim Huynh's Keystone Project Alberta, a photo-intaglio that has the word "pipeline" hole-punched into the print as if literally poking holes in the Alberta-Nebraska pipeline project. Lewis Mauk also is a prominent artist in the gallery with works from a recent series that speaks to his hoarding tendencies, including three photo-lithographs of decades-old marijuana baggies, ready to pop, and two Warhol-esque silk screens of larger-than-life used toothbrushes. Through August 25. 2309 Caroline, 713-659-5424. — MD
"Woven Landscapes" In this mesmerizing new show of Austin artist Bethany Johnson's work at Moody Gallery, one of the "landscapes" in question features rolling clouds across a vast horizon. The image, called Horizont II, is the result of rows of horizontal lines — each line itself made up of tiny dashes. It makes for a modern digital effect, as if this were a bad printout of a scan. The image is not revealing in any way — this could be a rural plain anywhere. Except it's not a plain at all. The image is taken from a photograph of a line in the road, cracked by wear and resembling, from a certain perspective, tumultuous clouds. In this piece and others in her solo show, Johnson cleverly plays with the intersection of nature, scale and human interaction. All of the pieces are composed of these meticulously placed dashes that you have to get up close to see. The lines run horizontal, vertical or both, in grids of blues, greens and reds that vibrate against each other, they're so close. As the name "Woven Landscapes" seems to suggest, there's a strong sense of craft. The methodical process used in creating these landscapes is very hands-on. Though they look like computer-generated images, they are the result of hours of mechanical labor. Some of these ink drawings are inspired by images of actual landscapes — vast skies and rural stretches seen during the artist's residency in Germany last year. Others, like the Horizont series, play with your sense of perception by creating an immense scene out of a tiny section of road or, in other cases, a close-up of a tree. Even in the smallest detail, you can find depth. Through August 18. 2815 Colquitt St., 713-526-9911. — MD
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