Capsule Art reviews: "David Aylsworth: The Reverses Wiped Away," "Endearing the Line," "Jason Yates: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything," "Lucas Johnson: Original Prints," "Perry House: Elegance/Violence," "Rhythm," "Tu Eres O No Tu Eres Mi Baby"
"David Aylsworth: The Reverses Wiped Away" This new show at Inman Gallery displays artist David Aylsworth's geometric abstractions, with titles geekily borrowed from show-tune lyrics. The paintings are predominantly stark white planes and hard edges. In the works that do employ color, the white takes on an erasing quality, overtaking the canvas. These plays between color and form make for great depth and tension as the angular shapes interact with each other. In Vaguely Discontented, three triangle-like pieces convene on the left side of the canvas, floating. In Doors Slamming Left and Right, a triangle holds court in the middle of the canvas, almost swallowed whole by the enveloping white. Indubitably is like a natural progression of this painting, a comically small patch of color barely present at the intersection of Aylsworth's hard lines on a rough white canvas. It's like a portal to someplace where there's free rein of color. Though there is a lot of white, it isn't all the same unadulterated color. Alysworth's method is to apply white paint over layers of color paint, creating off-kilter, angular shapes with each layer. In the process, the white mixes with the underlying colors, taking on pinkish, purplish or greenish hues while seemingly trying to obliterate the original color, these false starts of pink, purple and green. Through July 7. 3901 Main, 713-526-7800. — MD
"Endearing the Line" Berlin-based artist Dirk Rathke has quickly built himself a reputation here in Houston. After several shows at Gallery Sonja Roesch, he's known for his curved canvases — monochrome shapes that bend, twist and seemingly ripple ever so slightly; you have to check the edge of the work just to make sure of their depth — and stripped-down drawings that go off the canvas entirely. In his third exhibition at the gallery, Rathke returns to familiar territory. As the name suggests, the show plays with line, space and dimension, resulting in playful, attention-holding pieces. The most prominent is the remarkable site-specific installation Room-drawing for Houston #2. In his first solo show at Sonja Roesch, back in 2007, Rathke memorably took over the back end of the gallery with neon orange tape. He does so again, this time placing orange tape in the shape of two squares that take over the ceiling, wall and floor. It's part sculpture, part painting, thanks to the brush stroke-like lines of the tape, and it completely throws you off. You're not sure how to react to it — do you look at it straight on or dare to get inside the lines and challenge the 3-D quality of the work? The canvas-twisted works also play with this line between sculpture and painting. Rot Zweiteilig is the most striking of these, comprising two solid-red canvases that are forced together, a line between them adding to the tension. In the future, it'd be nice to see the artist move in another direction instead of doing more of the same. But what he has now is still powerful, memorable work — those neon orange squares will be etched in my mind for quite some time. Through June 30. 2309 Caroline, 713-659-5424. — 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 1970s 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 ten 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
"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
"Tu Eres O No Tu Eres Mi Baby" On one level, Ricky Armendariz's text-based carved paintings, done on plywood, function as romantic landscapes, and they're quite beautiful. In Dame Dame Dame, the moody blue-black sky is cut by a streak of pinkish red, likely a river. Along the lower left, distinctive, soft streetlights trace an unseen road, floating spookily along in the blackness. In Dale Dale Dale, we seem to get a close-up of this landscape, with the same reddish-pink form set against the dark outline of mountains. Over both of these landscapes, Armendariz has meticulously carved out objects — a helicopter in Dame Dame Dame, a rifle striking a piñata in Dale Dale Dale — as well as the words of the paintings' titles. It's an intriguing juxtaposition, this destructive, physical technique over his lovely painting, especially when Armendariz gets to his primarily textual pieces. In works of the same name, he's carved the words and phrases "Mala mala mala," "Tu eres loca pero yo tequiero anyway" and "Tu crazy baby" over plumes of black smoke and magenta skies. Armendariz was raised in the border town of El Paso, and his paintings evoke this area with their pop culture, hybrid use of Spanish and English. On a darker note, they reference the drug wars in towns like Juarez, with their smoke, gun imagery and ominous text and colors. Even some of the carved-out words resemble the scattered shots of bullets in paintings like Tu Crazy Baby, where each letter is made up of numerous holes. Through July 6. Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530. — MD
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