Capsule Art Reviews: "Bo Joseph: Empire of Spoils," "Jason Yates: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything," "Lucas Johnson: Original Prints," "Perry House: Elegance/Violence," "reverse of volume RG," "Rhythm"
"Bo Joseph: Empire of Spoils" In Bo Joseph's first solo show at McClain Gallery, his paintings are hardly reproducible — they're made through a complicated method involving layers of oil pastels, water-based tempera and acrylic-based ink on sheet paper that often damages the delicate paper in the process. Joseph works in patches, putting the pieces together like a puzzle, so if something does happen to go horribly awry, he can fix it. Still, the resulting works aren't perfect; there are uneven edges and parts that seem like they were cut out with a Zippo knife. More to the point, though, there's evidence of Joseph's handiwork all over them. It's only fitting that these works challenge and redefine notions of printmaking, as Joseph is all about challenging conventional notions of material, process, context and, foremost, subject matter. He has appropriated disparate images — ceremonial masks, birds, children, even rugby players — found in printed sources such as books and auction catalogs, stenciled them and repeatedly or strategically stamped them onto the paper to the point where they're almost unrecognizable. They're dense, cryptic, abstract works; it feels like if you stare at them long enough, you'll start to make meaning out of them. And that is the point — Joseph has taken these images out of their original contexts to create new meaning and commonalities. Through June 23. 2242 Richmond, 713-520-9988. — MD
"Jason Yates: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything" Jason Yates has lowered the volume on his art. In his first Houston solo show, at Barbara Davis Gallery, he has eliminated almost all color for mostly black-and-white patterns, creating an environment that's more meditative than in-your-face. There are even black wooden "monk boxes" scattered throughout the gallery that, if you didn't know any better, you'd think were places to sit down and drink in his textural works. In all, it's a pleasantly cohesive show. Yates has a series of acrylic and ink canvases that consist of intricate crosshatches and pieces of scalloped paper cascading down sections of the canvas. The drawings are incredibly meticulous — you might easily miss how labor-intensive it all is because the works are almost soothing. They're mostly black-and-white, varying by pattern, with the occasional loud pink or pale orange thrown in to shake things up, as if Yates teasingly turned the volume up to jolt you awake, then turned it back down once he had your attention. You'll be tempted to take a seat on one of the monk boxes before Snake Pit, a painstakingly crafted wall drawing that makes use of the gallery space in an incredibly clever way. The work is all zigzags à la Sol LeWitt and frames an entryway that looks right out onto Sunset and Sunrise, a wallpaper hanging in the front of the gallery that features black-and-white crosshatched squares reminiscent of Jasper Johns, but less carefree. As you stand there, these furious line drawings come together and take on a whole new dynamic. Yates doesn't have to be loud to completely hold our attention. Through June 30. 4411 Montrose, 713 520-9200. — MD
"Lucas Johnson: Original Prints" All summer long, the practice of printmaking is being celebrated with PrintHouston with works on display in nearly 30 galleries, featuring hundreds of artists who make both traditional and contemporary prints. But none may be able to capture printmaking's range and history here better than one show by a single artist. In an exhibition of original prints by Lucas Johnson at Moody Gallery, the pieces selected include all the printing styles in which the artist was skilled, from aquatint, etching, and lithography to serigraphy, drypoint, and mezzotint, spanning his prolific 40-year career. The works also subtly show Johnson's involvement with the Houston art and printmaking community. Many of the 25 works featured in this exhibition were printed at either Little Egypt Enterprises, led by master David Folkman during the 1970's or, later, Cerling Etching Studios, established by Penny Cerling in 1990. The gallery itself is even part of Johnson's legacy, as the artist showed his work there from when it opened in 1975 to his death in 2002, with the Moody continuing to show his prints thereafter. The only place Houston doesn't seem to register is in the subjects of the works themselves. Johnson had a love of many things – Mexico, music, politics and fishing, to name a few. From the band of Mexican musicians in the lithograph Los Musicos – extremely colorful and lively even in black-and-white – to the tension of the somber Springtime in Bolivia, to the ugly lantern fish in his well-known Bottomfeeders series, his prints are tokens of that love. They're works that are sometimes serious, dark and humanistic, and other times wonderfully strange and funny. And, above all, they're still highly technical and well-crafted. Through July 7. 2815 Colquitt, 713-526-9911. — 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, comprised 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 10 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. 140 Heights Blvd., 713-861-5526. — MD
"reverse of volume RG" Yasuaki Onishi's latest installation at Rice Gallery is made out of just plastic and black hot glue, and yet it manages to take on multiple properties depending on your perspective. As you walk around the site-specific piece, it resembles a forest, the thin black glue like sparse dead trees on top of a mountainous terrain. Staring at it straight on, it looks like an otherworldly, alien creature, like an inverted jellyfish with long black tentacles. Venturing directly under the plastic, you're walking through a cave that's had all the color drained from it, save for hundreds of black splotches. Most of all, though, Onishi's new piece is unlike anything you can see or put a name to. There is a ghostly aura about the plastic as it stretches unevenly from one end of the gallery to the other, attached to the ceiling by strings of black hot glue. It's as if the plastic is propped over some misshapen form that you cannot see. These materials follow their own logic — the glue is splattered in a happenstance fashion, giving dimension to the cavernous plastic shape — which seems to be dictated by whatever is under it. As the title implies, the piece is playing with emptiness, filling the void above you and leaving the gallery's floor and walls untouched. One of the most remarkable things about this installation is how delicate it is. It seems like a slight cough would send the whole thing floating down on top of you. Even the gallery's air conditioning disturbs the structure, making it undulate ever so slightly. But, against all odds, it remains intact. It's a remarkable sight to behold at any angle. Through June 24. Rice Gallery, 6100 Main, 713-348-6069. — MD
"Rhythm" In his show of new acrylic paintings at Devin Borden Gallery, Todd Hebert presents subjects that are comically lowbrow and adolescent — a jack-o'-lantern candy bucket, a snowman, bubbles, a baseball. But for all their childlike connotations, Hebert's acrylics don't come off as overly nostalgic or sentimental, the snowman looms almost sinisterly, taking up the majority of the canvas. In one piece, the jack-o'-lantern, which shows up in several paintings, is in the shadows in one, the telltale eyes, nose and mouth of the pumpkin barely visible in the near-total darkness. And the baseball is all by its lonesome, soaring through the nighttime air to some unseen mitt. These objects seem to be picked based not so much on a specific memory or connection but on the challenges in bringing them to life and creating their near-likeness. Hebert seems to be playing with movement and momentum with his spherical subjects. Many of his paintings depict the objects suspended in mid-flight. You can sense them moving — the sharply focused baseball hurling through its trajectory over a soft, romantic cityscape in a painting of remarkable photographic quality; the shiny, translucent bubbles waiting to pop or be popped as they lazily float on by; the awkward flight of the plastic jack-o'-lantern bucket before it crashes to the ground, as it inevitably will. Other subjects are in repose, and Hebert uses this opportunity to play with perspective and keep us on our toes a little bit. In Ball and Jack o' Lantern, a baseball lies in front of the black-and-orange bucket, nothing really out of the ordinary except that the baseball rests at the edge of the canvas, while the bottom of the bucket lies below at sights unseen, throwing things off. These all-too-familiar items become new, strange, humorous, creepy, striking and moving. Through July 10. 3917 Main, 713-529-2700. — MD
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