Capsule Art Reviews: "Berlin, Potsdamer Platz," "Hate Expo," "lights, camera, action," "Love Man," "New Paintings: Geoff Hippenstiel," "Perspectives 177: McArthur Binion"
"Berlin, Potsdamer Platz" Magda Boltz-Wilson's current collection features an abstract succession of block prints, some monotone, others with striking swipes of colors. Potsdamer Platz is one of the most noted intersections in Germany. It has been at the center of decades of history for the country, from its total destruction after the Second World War, to its literal divide when the Berlin Wall was erected, to its becoming a pile of rubble after the demolition of the Wall. In 1991, the area was reborn as the largest building site in Europe. It is this Potsdamer Platz that Boltz-Wilson has captured in her artwork. Some of Boltz-Wilson's prints are obvious images of the construction. Skewed skyscrapers jut out of the canvas. If you look closely enough, you can almost feel the city coming alive in these prints, along with the hope of a new era. Large mechanical cranes assist in the buildings on her canvas, and dust covers the perimeter. In addition to the black and white buildings, Boltz-Wilson has a series of colorful, vinyl block prints that move away from her infrastructure theme and depict the history of the area. In one print in particular, a series of faces stares out at you. Are they watching you, like some sort of secret police, or are they the victims, attempting to hide away? Either way, the impact is haunting. Through March 10 at the Redbud Gallery, 303 East 11th St., 713-862-2532. — AK
"Hate Expo" Dusty Peterman and William Keihn, the two artists who make up Mushroom Necklace, have no issues with telling their audience to take a long walk off a short pier, but with more colorful four-letter words. Don't take it personally, it matches the theme and feel of the artwork they produce. "Hate Expo," their latest collection of work, on view at Domy Books, feels like a play on words, as do most of the duo's pieces. The collection features silk-screened prints, many of which resemble music posters or promotional fliers, but they smack you in the face. One poster invites you to the "Drug Street Festival," where "no sandals are allowed," while another appears to be a flyer for the "Loser Bar," where "bad luck awaits you" and, not so subliminally, advises you to end it all. The posters are clever and engaging, begging the audience to look again to be sure of what they had just read. One that stood out at first appeared to be a band flyer for the Beatles performing alongside another band named "Make Me Sad." Read quickly, the meaning has changed. The posters hang on the walls of Domy haphazardly with Duct tape and pushpins, which, again, seems to be Mushroom Necklace's shtick. Their work is meaningless, but everything is meaningless. Rather than saying "why bother," though, the two artists have shoved "why bother" in our faces by creating this thought-provoking collection. We are glad they bothered. Through March 15. 1709 Westheimer, 713-523-3669. — AK
"lights, camera, action" Just in time for the Oscars, the Koelsch Gallery's current exhibition captures the varied nuances that comprise America's beloved La La Land. The collection of work features several noted local artists such as Claire Cusack, Matt Duffin, Cisco Tucker Kolkmeier and Vanessa Estrada, as well many others that Koelsch has recruited from across the country. As the show's name indicates, the collection of work, while varied in medium, technique and style, all falls under the umbrella of "Hollywood." Upon entering the gallery, you are presented with a whimsical piece by Ann Huey entitled Classics, and that is exactly what it is. An assortment of small replications of classic movie posters and images is arranged on a large backing. For a movie lover, this piece would make for a good one over the mantel. Dominating the far corner of the gallery is Sandy Sussman's Toto, an oversize acrylic painting of Judy Garland as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. She is bodiless. The memorable face we all know and love floats in the heavens, held up by a pair of large white wings. Look closer, and she is a bird flying in the sky, but she doesn't look like she's relishing her freedom. Mixed-media artist W. Tucker has taken familiar images, some from retro film or advertising, and taken their seriousness down a notch with childlike scribbles and markings. A classic Hollywood image of a couple swooning is ruined by a merciless ball point pen. Chalk drawings of boats intrude on a "romantic movie moment." The markings are subtle but impactful nonetheless. Does Hollywood take itself too seriously? With a few of the pieces, it was difficult to make out the Hollywood theme. As a collection, though, "lights, camera, action" is as enjoyable as sitting down in a dark movie theater with a big bucket of popcorn. Through March 3. 703 Yale, 713-626-0175. — AK
"Love Man" Justin Brown Durand's new drawings at Front Gallery are inspired by Valentine's Day, but don't expect any hearts, flowers or anything remotely resembling your typical saccharine romance. But there is tons of pink. For "Love Man," gallery owner Sharon Engelstein reached out to Durand to specifically make a show to run during the Hallmark holiday. The artist says he then put himself in a "love trance," looking to romance, lust and passion for inspiration. The result of that trance shows the three at play in raw works that are alternately creepy, strange and oddly alluring, done in crayons, pastels, markers, pencil and pen. The subjects of Durand's paintings are exposed, both literally and emotionally — naked, with outlines of bones and arteries dressing up their limbs. The hearts here are outside the body, bleeding and still beating. The drawings are like R. Crumb meets Picasso — black and white ink sketches of bodies with their proportions, well, out of proportion. The subjects themselves display a wide range of romantic states — one couple is in rapture, embracing tenderly. Another is lying straight as boards, dead-looking, displaying no sense of intimacy despite their mutual nakedness. "Moccasins" is one of the most memorable, if also alarming, pieces — it shows an anonymous couple, their faces masked by long, flowing hair, in a heated moment. Both are naked save for their moccasins, and one is being dismembered, the torso cut in half and guts being pulled out. That gruesome scene is immediately followed by the touching "Virgins" — the image of a couple embracing, gazing into each others' eyes, with the words "I never thought tonight would ever be this close to me" coming from the man's mouth. Through March 17. 1412 Bonnie Brae St., 713-298-4750. — MD
"New Paintings: Geoff Hippenstiel" It seems trite to say an artist's work is exciting — how often have you heard that before? But that's the exact reaction I had when viewing Geoff Hippenstiel's new, large paintings at Devin Borden Gallery. In his first solo show here since his well-received MFA show at the University of Houston in spring 2010, the abstract oil paintings are almost too big for the gallery to contain. They take up its main exhibition space, its storeroom, even its office, making for some nice, colorful scenery at two desks. Every single one of these works is untitled — even the show is simply called "New Paintings" — but they're not without their own backstories. In short, the Houston artist starts off with one central image — Monet's lilies, Cézanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire, even, randomly, a Goya-bust award statue — and paints. He paints until the original inspiration is barely recognizable, though traces of it remain beneath the surface. As a result, the paintings feel familiar, and yet completely new. Whether it's the starting image or the artist's obsessive painting over it, the same material is always used — oil paint — but in an almost meta moment, Hippenstiel's viscous patches of metallic paint start to take over the work. The paint itself — its color and its thickness — becomes the subject, squeezing out the lilies or covering the pale gold of the Goya head in a bright green. In another painting, the original image is indiscernible, covered almost entirely in a thick blanket of shiny silver, erasing whatever came first. Experiencing the effacing quality of paint in this context is simple, but still exciting and completely alluring. The paint wins. Through March 13. Devin Borden Gallery, 3917 Main, 713-529-2700. — MD
"Perspectives 177: McArthur Binion" McArthur Binion's show at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston features a repetition of geometric shapes — triangles, squares and circles — varying only by color. To make them, he presses wax crayon onto wood and aluminum panels in a very laborious process that results in what the Chicago artist likes to call "Rural Modernism," both a nod to the pieces' heavy texture and his Mississippi upbringing. The result of all this repetition, however, is that once you see one piece, you've seen them all. Whether it's a red triangle, green triangle or purple triangle, there's not much to propel you forward. To be fair, each piece is subtly different, though that's largely indiscernible to the naked eye. That's because barely visible under each layer of crayon are autobiographical elements — pictures of Binion, his birth house, and parents, as well as lynched men and even racist and stereotypical imagery taken from fruit wrappings. The artist cleverly calls this the "under-consciousness" of the work, though like anything that's under the surface, you have to be told it's there, or otherwise miss it completely. One piece that did stand out in the artist's museum debut was Stellucca I: (Rural Geometry) — a parallelogram, the only one of its kind in the show, whose title is a combination of Binion's children's names, Stella and Lucca. With just a few simple lines, Binion manages to create a great tension that really grabs you. Through April 1. 5216 Montrose Blvd., 713-284-8250. — MD
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