Capsule Art Reviews: "Danny Rolph — Accelerator," "Donald Baechler — Recent Paintings and Collages," "Garland Fielder – A Likely Story," "PRISMATTAK," "The Puppet Show"
"Danny Rolph — Accelerator" Ostensibly, "Accelerator" is a kind of crash-'em-up homage to trucking culture and fast living. London-born Rolph's mixed-media pieces seem both to celebrate, and to caution against, gasoline-guzzling lifestyles. Fittingly, Rolph's surface material is Triplewall, clear, polycarbonate sheets used to protect windows and doors from hurricane-force winds and flying debris and still allow light to enter the interior. For each piece, Rolph creates a background image collage littered with pictures of 18-wheelers, vans, engines and other miscellaneous snippings. A layer of clear Triplewall is placed over the collage, and Rolph effects a collision of angular color shards in a variety of substances, creating the effect of a shattered, DayGlo windshield. One site-specific wall installation departs from the main theme and reflects a pop-culture and literary tour of the '50s and '60s. Book covers by Vladimir Nabokov, Truman Capote and Kingsley Amis, among others, float among photographs, random letters in a collegiate font, swaths of colored vinyl and wrapping paper that reads "Party Time." That particular detail might be a key to the big picture of this show, since viewed from a distance, the works resemble explosions of haphazardly cut confetti. Through March 14. Barbara Davis Gallery, 4411 Montrose, 713-520-9200. — TS
"Donald Baechler — Recent Paintings and Collages" Donald Baechler's paintings, much like the work of two of his favorite artists, Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg, contain pop elements. A single generic image — ice cream cone, alarm clock, red rose, etc. — dominates the canvas, hovering over a background of seemingly random iconography, like a curio-cabinet collage. In Large Green Cone, the mint-colored ice cream and sugar cone are outlined with a heavy black line and then an outside white one, which gives the subject a separate weight and allows it to be juxtaposed with the background — it's a small detail, but it goes a long way. Like his idols, Baechler suggests that a coded message is waiting to be unlocked in his art, while at the same time expressing the absurdity of searching for meaning. For the most part, though, the show feels inspired by '60s ephemera and a longing for a less complicated life. Through March 7. McClain Gallery, 2242 Richmond, 713-520-9988. — TS
"Garland Fielder – A Likely Story" Houston artist Garland Fielder was inspired by Plato for this show, which attempts to apply ancient metaphysics to postmodern perceptions of reality. Fielder's artist statement (worth a read) provides some perspective on the minimalist pieces on display, paintings and sculptures depicting various three-dimensional geometric shapes, and it suggests some interesting ways of viewing the works, but Fielder's esoteric musings on Plato's concept of perceptible reality do little to bolster the visual impact. A series of black paintings resemble skeletal polyhedrons floating in space like 3-D constellations. Untitled (Anamorphic Tetrahedron) is a red-vinyl-tape version of the black paintings applied directly to the gallery wall. It appears to hover in the space as one navigates the gallery. Dodecahedron for St. Sebastian is a playful mix of martyrdom and model rocketry — a hanging polyhedron "pierced" in all directions by retro-looking rockets. A series of Black and White Wall Mounted Solids, wood-and-enamel paint polyhedrons, appear to emerge from, as Fielder imagines, "an unseen dimension." "A Likely Story" is likely to delight collectors with a taste for science, mathematics and philosophy. Through March 14. Anya Tish Gallery, 4411 Montrose, 713-524-2299. — TS
"Danny Rolph Accelerator"
"PRISMATTAK" Color-conscious Houston artist Lisa Marie Godfrey curated this group show spotlighting artists who employ color to create psychedelic effects and abstract textures. Ranging from doodles to graffiti to sculptural forms made of paper, the show is appropriately stripped-down and casual, occupying the Domy Books' entrance-nook. Brent Wadden's triangularly composed designs in acrylic, enamel, pen and marker evoke primitive spirit masks, but perhaps ones found in the sci-fi realm. Rene Cruz contributes a pair of bizarre acid-trip images, one of which looks like an exquisite corpse he decided to complete all by himself. Most effectively psychedelic are Renata Lucia's crumpled-paper pieces, sheets that were wadded up, unfolded and dusted with brightly colored spray paint — real visual treats and by far the best buys on display. Through March 14. 1709 Westheimer, 713-523-3669. — TS
"The Puppet Show" The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is packed with puppets for an exhibition called — what else? — "The Puppet Show." Organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, the show features work by artists incorporating puppets in the broadest, as well as the narrowest, sense of the word. Numerous works incorporate actual puppets. Probably the best-known puppet-based contemporary artwork, Dennis Oppenheim's 1974 Theme for a Major Hit, greets you as you walk into the exhibition. The piece features five automated marionettes clad in dark suits, all created in Oppenheim's likeness. Every 15 minutes or so, a soundtrack of the artist singing "It ain't what you make, it's what makes you do it" plays, and the puppets — the artist's performing surrogates — begin to frantically tap dance, seeking to entertain the audience. Other standouts include Laurie Simmons's creepy ventriloquist dummy photographs; Terence Gower's Puppet Storage, a plywood room displaying puppets and puppet-related objects; and Louise Bourgeois's vintage-fabric sculpture featuring four "figures" hanging from four metal arms radiating from an iron stand. Video is also a big part of the exhibition, with works by Matt Mullican, Guy Ben-Nur and Cindy Loehr, among many others. "The Puppet Show" does have its share of less interesting selections in which "Hey, it's got a puppet in it!" seems to have been the primary reason for their inclusion. But as a whole, it is intriguing...and creepy. Through April 12. 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250. — KK
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