Capsule Art Reviews: "A Golden Time of Day," "James Turrell: Holograms," "Kyle Farley: Countenance," "Layover," "New Prints: Gallery Artists," "Six Apart," "UNIT"
"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
"James Turrell: Holograms" The normally well-lit Hiram Butler Gallery has gone dark for its current show — holograms by the famed light artist James Turrell. He's best known of late for his skyspaces — meditative areas both indoor and out that encourage you to sit while they play with your perception of light. These spaces are minimal works that require little on your part but are still wholly immersive. Like the famous skyspaces, these works also play with perceptions of light, but they aren't such a passive experience. Rather, these six holograms demand interaction — a call and response that will have patrons unconsciously doing the "hologram dance," as the gallery's taken to calling it — a silly shuffle from side to side that enables you to experience the glowing pieces three-dimensionally. The six holograms on view are unnamed, though they can be distinguished by the distinct color and shape of their subject — light itself. A thin blue and green sphere, an orange beam, a blue ring and a slanted blue oval, all glowing against a stark black background, comprise the four long transmission holograms hanging across from each other in the main space. As you move from side to side, the light changes color and shape, coming out at you without the aid of cheesy 3D glasses. Though they don't rival them in size, the exhibition's two smaller holograms are the most remarkable on view. They're smaller than an iMac and feature crisper and bolder holograms. The bluish-green circle in the last hologram is so sharp and real looking, you can't help but try to grasp it with your hand, only to go through it like some geometric ghost. Through September 22. 4520 Blossom. 713-863-7097. — MD
"Kyle Farley: Countenance" Most of the eight works by Kyle Farley in this show are lit, either by a source within, by small bulbs on the surface or, as is the case in one piece, by a red spotlight attached to the work. But it's one of the more straightforward pieces that features the strongest imagery. In Untitled (Navajo Swastikas), there are no lights or complex parts, just the black-and-white image of a basketball team digitally printed on wooden boards seemingly ripped from an old basketball court. On their uniforms, the players sport swastikas. But these aren't German Nazis. They're Navajos, circa 1909, photographed before the swastika was adopted as a symbol of the Nazi party. It's a powerful photo, made all the more so by Farley's composition and materials. The ancient symbol is seen again in Swastika Ball. Here, Farley uses a light box and a photograph of a group of children performing the Nazi salute. This scene is not in Germany, either, but Milwaukee during the mid-1930s. One half of the photo is clearly manipulated, as the children are stiffly raising their left arms instead of their right. The 80-year-old image is subversively undermined thanks to some modern-day photo technology. They're big pieces — Farley showed up with 30 works for the show, and the modest Redbud Gallery was able to fit only eight — with big, if also a bit perplexing, ideas. Here's this good ol' boy from Cleburne, Texas, digging up forgotten Nazi paraphernalia. But shock value seems to be only part of it. Other works feature images of the Nazis' base in Antarctica, Vladimir Putin, the American eagle, rockets and oil fields. They're all symbols of power that Farley's managed to diminish. Nothing is off limits here. Through August 27. 303 E. 11th St., 713-862-2532. — MD
"Layover" Putting art in an airport is almost a defeatist goal — people are too busy getting to someplace else to pause and reflect on an intricate painting or abstract sculpture right in front of them. But that doesn't mean Houston isn't going to try. Through a partnership of the Houston Airport System, City of Houston and Houston Arts Alliance, the city started curating a permanent collection of museum-quality photographs, paintings and sculpture by regional artists that can be rotated throughout Hobby Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The installation isn't happening until later this summer and into the fall, but the public can get a preview of some of the selected works in a current exhibition at the Alliance's gallery. The ten on display are hardly a majority of the 30-plus-item collection, but if this sample is any indication, there is a freshness to the works that goes beyond the provincial, "easy" or obvious. Katrina Moorhead's Map of Incomplete Listing of Uninhabited Islands of the World does deal with an obvious topic — travel — but there's a tongue-in-cheekiness to it as she's marked uninhabited locations on a print of a map that's been beautifully detailed in watercolor. These are not places you're likely to be traveling to today, but rather uncharted territory out there to be explored. Jonathan Leach adds some much-needed pop to the proceedings with Mainline, a pink, geometric painting in acrylic and spray paint that depicts a hectic cityscape — loud billboards and zigzagging lines. On the sculpture side, there's Jeffrey Forster's Device, a strange little green industrial-looking relic that looks like it's been left to rust and corrode, though incredibly, it's made out of ceramic. If this doesn't catch a harried traveler's attention, nothing will. Through August 24. 3201 Allen Pkwy., 713-527-9330. — 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
"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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