Capsule Art Reviews: "Dieter Balzer: Objects," "Endless Disharmony and Telltale Ashes," "Flyaway: New Work by Aaron Parazette," "Glass Graphica," "Hilary Harnischfeger and Tommy White," "Hillevi Baar: Ambrosia" and "J. Hill: New Sculpture with Implied

"Dieter Balzer: Objects" While looking at Dieter Balzer's meticulous overlapping stripes and bold checkers, I couldn't help but think of the on-trend fashion equivalent — the mix-matched patterns and loud color blocking that have been everywhere this past summer. And now, so it seems, they've found their way to the walls of Gallery Sonja Roesch, whose current exhibition features the Berlin artist's newest works. From either vantage point, both the fashion and the art are appealing for many of the same reasons — the use of bright, vibrant colors, of blue against green against purple against orange, is cheery and attention-grabbing. Meanwhile, the different patterns are unexpected but have an innate logic and surprising order, even when the bars and squares that make up these sculptures overlap. Balzer, of course, isn't copying some in-vogue style; the Gallery Sonja Roesch favorite has been making reductive art like this for years, filling up the walls and floors here and in Europe with his colorful, linear sculptures. He has an exact system, too, creating his curiously named works (Mesa, Flic Flac, Xeos, Manga) based on a modular system of architecture and color. In this sense, every piece of adhesive foil-covered MDF has a place and a color and relates to other elements of the sculpture in a very specific way, making for works that are balanced despite their seeming disorder. Within all that spontaneity of color and pattern, there is a sense that Dieter is pulling the strings. While fashions may come and go, there is a timelessness to the artist's objects, which elegantly cut through the white space. His clean, bright sculptures can hold up. Through October 27. 2309 Caroline, 713-659-5424. — MD

"Endless Disharmony and Telltale Ashes" Eric Zimmerman's new show at Art Palace is a confounding, skillful, frustrating and intriguing riddle of a conceptual art show that sticks with you for days. The exhibition is just one part of the concept, which also consists of a now-ended show of related works at Dallas's Reading Room called, conversely, "Telltale Ashes and Endless Disharmony," and a Tumblr of image and sound media. The Houston show itself consists primarily of two things — graphite drawings and collages. The graphite drawings are intricate reproductions of disparate objects. There's a bison carcass, a replica of the cover to René Daumal's Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing, the record Dream Baby by Roy Orbison, a reproduction of one of French painter Théodore Géricault's still-lifes, and a hand performing a magic trick with a coin. Where the graphite drawings are exact, even down to the wear on the cover of Mount Analogue, the collages take photographs of landscapes, wood cutters and destroyed houses from old National Geographics and rearrange them into something alien — all jagged edges and messy swirls of greens, browns and whites. They are the ashes, trying to reveal something that has been destroyed. Zimmerman gives us even more clues, including two zines containing text, definitions and images referencing those used in the show. There's still even more to the show to digest, so the question is, do you have the time to devote to this riddle? I'm still knee-deep in and trying to find my way out. Through October 27. 3913 Main, 281-501-2964. — MD

"Flyaway: New Work by Aaron Parazette" Since moving to Houston in 1990 to be a part of the Core Residency Program at the Glassell School of Art, Aaron Parazette has become one of the city's premier artists. He's taught at the School of Art at the University of Houston for more than a decade, had several solo shows in Houston, Dallas and abroad, and put on major shows himself, including a survey of Houston art currently up at McClain Gallery. Of course, there's also the matter of the art itself — crisp, slick, abstract designs that play with color and form in new ways and seem to get better and more refined every time. So Parazette's current title as Art League Houston's Texas Artist of the Year is a no-brainer. With the award also comes a solo show at Art League, and aren't we lucky. Parazette has decked out two walls of the space's main gallery with his signature, a wall installation. Called "Flyaway," it's an enveloping grid of blue, green, black and white that seems to stretch on infinitely. I loved the sense of speed Parazette managed to create in his bursts of color and lines, and even, likely unintentionally, the way the colors reflected off the black floor. The painting doesn't stop. The show also features six selections from Parazette's new Color Key series. He has abandoned the surfer slang he's experimented with in previous solo shows and focused solely on lines, color and shape. They're unusual shapes, at that — slanted, bulging half-circles, abrupt pentagons and perfect ovals that seem as if they're reacting to the bursts of color and geometric shapes within, trying to contain it all. Of course, these paintings are contained, whether by the limits of the canvas or the walls of the gallery itself. But at least for a little bit, it seems, those limits don't exist. Through November 2. Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530. — MD


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"Glass Graphica" The two artists whose works appear side by side in this exhibition, Moshe Bursuker and Miguel Unson, have long been acquaintances. Bursuker taught at UrbanGlass, a community space in Brooklyn, New York, when Unson was a student. The two found that their love of glass was a common bond despite their varied approaches to technique. Bursuker's method combines photography and glass collaged together to create an abstract world, encased in ice. In some of his pieces, nonfigurative forms, almost appearing like globs of glass, hide another world. Inside the shapes, the reflections of buildings and windows can be perceived, although they may not be noticed upon first glance; it is a secret the artist has extended to us. Other works by Bursuker are more colorful yet contain the same twist on reality. Solid plates of melded glass are filled with colorful fractured patterns that at first appear random but come together to make a scenic picture. If the Impressionists had worked in glass, these pieces would fit nicely into their catalog. Meanwhile, Unson's pieces are primarily disc-shaped objects, black with colorful light seeping through. In his piece She Won't Look at You (Won't Look at You), Unson has found a way to weave using glass. The result is beautiful. White strands, almost vein-like, swim through black matter, making intricate patterns and shapes. The two artists complement each other nicely. Their work is wildly different yet holds the same basic foundation, and their passion for the material is ever apparent. Through October 14. Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — AK

"Hilary Harnischfeger and Tommy White" Hilary Harnischfeger's vessels have a natural earthiness to them. It's in the muted earth tones she uses, the purples, greens and blues; the materials that are regular players in natural history museum gift shops — quartz, mica, pyrite (aka Fool's Gold); and the organic shape they take on, as if they've been weathered by wind and rain. At the same time, these pieces aren't anything close to what you'd find in nature. The materials are forced together like some sort of sculptural Frankenstein's monster, with plaster stuck to clay stuffed with layers of multicolored paper. It shouldn't work, but there's an intelligent design here that keeps it all from falling apart. Seven of Harnischfeger's newest works, fresh out of the kiln, are now up on the walls of Front Gallery. The artist is making a name for herself these days with these clay formations, and it's easy to see why. They have an order and process to them that is mystifying for artists and non-artists alike, and the fact that all of these elementary materials work together is pleasantly surprising. Harnischfeger's sculptures are accompanied by 27 collage drawings by her husband, Tommy White. White has an impressive résumé himself, but here he takes a backseat to his wife. Twenty-seven works by one artist is a lot for even bigger spaces than Front to manage, but arranged as they are all on one wall in a grid, their abundance makes it hard to contemplate each on its own, and they become muddled. That might even be the point — White hasn't named any of them, and with repeated reds and pinks used across the board, they look like they could be puzzle pieces to some weird, grotesque phallic imagery. But it was hard to get into the drawings in the first place, especially when pulled back to Harnischfeger's little monsters. Through October 27. 1412 Bonnie Brae St., 713-298-4750. — MD

"Hillevi Baar: Ambrosia" and "J. Hill: New Sculpture with Implied Volume" PG Contemporary has two shows up that couldn't be more different from each other. In one room, you have Hillevi Baar's elaborate drawings and wall hangings that rely heavily on nature imagery. In the other, you have J. Hill's straightforward design consisting mostly of reproductions of electronic equipment in MDF. For all of Baar's femininity, delicateness, color and ephemerality, Hill counters with masculine, hard-edged, monochrome, solid pieces. At the same time, there is much that unites them. For one — Hill, the head of the Sculpture Department for the Glassell School of Art, and Baar, a heavily collected Houston artist, are married. They are both sculptors, and both use the wall to hang their pieces. They are also concerned with detail — Baar's works in graphite on Mylar are carefully composed and deliberate, even when they have names like Unraveled, while Hill's electronic reproductions are very clean and exact. Still, where Hill's work is pretty conceptual and evocative, speaking to how memory influences the form objects take on, Baar's is more visceral. Her pieces are all about color, patterns and textures, and you can't help get up close to take it in. That's especially the case with the marvel Gentle Dragons, which consists of 73 steel rods stuck into the wall with circles of Mylar bunched together like a floral arrangement in every color of the rainbow. The piece smoothly ebbs up and down along the length of a wall like beautiful music. It's impossible to photograph properly, too — it's the type of work that just needs to be experienced. Through October 27. PG Contemporary, 3227 Main, 713-523-7424. — MD


"Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows" Vivian Maier's is a fascinating story. The "nanny photographer" took hundreds of thousands of photographs from the 1950s to the 1970s, many of them going undeveloped until discovered in an Indiana storage auction in 2007. There are currently 30 of her photos on display at Catherine Couturier Gallery (formerly John Cleary Gallery) from Chicago art collector Jeffrey Goldstein's collection. The strictly black-and-white photographs have been printed based on the standards and aesthetics of Maier's time, making for beautifully high-contrast photos with rich shadows. The show features a group of self-portraits; another of small prints Maier, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 83, saw published in her lifetime; and finally, what can only be described as everything else — photos that document the everyday, capturing intimate, suspenseful, funny or quiet moments — whatever caught Maier's masterful eye. There are young lovers kissing on a Coney Island beach, an elderly couple bracing themselves against a strong wind, a military line next to bystanders during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Though often unceremoniously labeled as an "amateur," Maier was a street photographer and documentarian of the best sort. She captured unstaged moments, disappearing into the scenery so her subjects could act naturally. Why Maier let her life's work sit collecting dust in a storage unit, we may never know. And while this story raises questions about the ethics of printing someone else's work without her consent — and profiting off of it — I can't help but feel relieved that these images, these humanist historical records, haven't been lost to the shadows. Through October 13. 2635 Colquitt, 713-524-5070. — MD

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