"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 15. 7026 Old Katy Rd., Suite 253, 713-862-4425, graycontemporary.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
"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
"Marta Chilindron & Graciela Hasper: Dialogues" The Sicardi Gallery has paired two artists, one born in Montevideo and the other in Buenos Aires, who share an interest in creating colorful, vibrant art, though they are not collaborators with each other. Graciela Hasper works with acrylics on canvas to create wall art, and Marta Chilindron uses colored, transparent acrylic to build flexible sculptures. A 2014 piece (Hasper doesn't title her art) has cascading, transparent planes of different colors, some square, some rectangular, along with cubes and rectangles. It has enormous power and energy, and seems orderly as well as chaotic. Another 2014 work has a variety of transparent colored squares, with those at the upper level smaller, conveying the impression that the squares are hurtling toward the viewer. The sensation of movement is vivid, and the energy palpable. Chilindron's Orange Circle 12 is composed of ten orange, transparent acrylic elements of various shapes hinged together and placed on the floor. The result is highly original, a novel architectural shape, like an alien's calling card. My favorite among Chilindron's works is also monochromatic, Spiral 7. The transparent blue elements are each the same size, so it can collapse into quite a small space, but it's shown here partly "unfurled," creating a sense of growth and energy. If it were fully opened, who knows what miracles might occur. Cube 12 Multicolor is 12"x12"x12", but can expand to an enormous width as desired; there were too many panels to count. 9 Trapezoids has transparent panels of various colors. Their rich variety suggests adventure and drama, with the purple panel promising passion — a full life. Through August 30. 1506 West Alabama, 713-529-1313, sicardi.com. — JJT
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"SHOW UP (group exhibition)" The Zoya Tommy Contemporary Gallery has a knack for showing works of wit and substance, proving that significant art can be great fun. The current show has works that range from jocular (painted art on imitation toast in real "found" toasters by Katie Pell) to powerful abstract art that is exciting, such as The Messenger by Guus Kemp, where the paint is slathered on with a generosity of spirit, enriching the texture. It has a lavish, multicolored energy, inviting one in. Charles Krafft works with porcelain, blue painted on white, and has a number of amusing portraits of famous persons, some masquerading as teapots: Kim Jong II, Yukio Mishima, Vladimir Putin and a remarkable likeness of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Peter Zelle has an imposing tall glass sculpture, Ocean Sonata, that suggests a headless female in contour but is composed of a number of colored glass elements that depict waves and seagulls. It has considerable beauty, a subtle power, and is wonderful. Lester Marks prints photographic imagery on Fuji crystal, and I was captivated by one I mentally titled Tilted Stage (I am a theater buff). Antonia Richardson shows large abstract works of mixed media. I was unimpressed by Rojo Rhythm, as a dominant red element seemed streaked, unfinished. Curiously, I loved the thumbprint of the same painting — the camera had darkened the red, so the streaking was invisible, and the picture had been rotated to place the large red element at bottom right, serving as an anchor to an expanding vista. The exhibition goal here was "an overload of color and artwork", and this gallery has more than succeeded. Through September 6. 4411 Montrose, 713-523-7424, zoyatommy.com. — JJT