Capsule Art Reviews: "Dog Park," "Emily Sloan: Enlight," "Glass Graphica" "James Turrell: Holograms," "Lillian Warren: Wait With Me," "Michael Petry: Bad Restoration"
"Dog Park" G Gallery put out the open call earlier this summer for artists who use dogs as subject matter in their work. And the resulting show is indeed a winner. It has a range of mediums, from paintings to photography to sculpture, with submissions by some of the Houston art scene's heavy hitters. A real standout is Suzy Gonzalez's How Much Is That in the Window?, an oil painting depicting a normal family scene — mom, dad and little boy, who's pointing off excitedly at something out of view — except for the fact that they have dog heads instead of human. It's like a surreal Norman Rockwell painting. James Ruby's Smooch 2.0 is wonderfully all snout. Theresa Crawford's Fixated is a regal portrait of a contemplative shih tzu, while b.moodyart's The God Dog is a raw, emotive portrait of a bulldog, almost primitive in its acrylic sketches. There's an extreme lightness in Nola Parker's Charlie I, which depicts a dog mid-air, bounding carefree through the grass. In photography, there's a great suite of dogs at their quirkiest. Mary Magsamen and Stephan Hillerbrand turn to the family dog for their portrait of Cerebrus, who's lying almost luxuriously in a pile of white bread. Lee Deigaard's goofy The Dog Who Took the Place of a Mountain is a blurry portrait of a cross-eyed bloodhound named, perfectly, Buster, while Martha M. Thomas's Disdain depicts an extremely angry-looking poodle that is just raw emotion. Meanwhile, Ben Tecumseh DeSoto makes it political with Dog Realizes Death, a photograph of a frightened-looking puppy being led reluctantly by a person in rubber rain boots. The text accompanying the photo tells us that the dog is about to die by lethal injection. It's the most heartbreaking and serious submission in this diverse show. That it's placed next to a photograph of two dogs humping — that's the gift of the open call. Through September 30. 301 E. 11th St., 713-869-4770. — MD
"Emily Sloan: Enlight" During her summer residency at Darke Gallery, Houston artist Emily Sloan crafted metal sculptures inspired by mandalas — a Sanskrit word literally meaning "circle" that is a major element of Buddhist and Hindu religious art. They're often seen as concentric diagrams and used to aid in meditation, like those moving spirals hypnotists are known for. Sloan's mandalas aren't your typical drawing or diagram. They're 3-D, jutting out from walls or laid at angles on the floor. They look like wire outlines of lampshades, and in fact Sloan even inserts lampshades in the center of some of these sculptures. With her mandala inspiration, it can be assumed that Sloan wants to also put us in a trance. And the longer you look at the lines of her sculptures, the more you start to see shapes in them — I saw flowers one moment, musical instruments the next. As you move around the gallery, the individual mandalas also overlap each other, creating new lines and images. I've been told that the metal works look best when they're able to cast prominent shadows against the wall. When I saw them, the shadows were faint, but I could imagine that this interplay could be quite beautiful if seen at the right time. One of the best parts of the exhibition is a video Sloan created with artist Jonathan Jindra that makes the warmly lit mandalas come alive as the camera moves in and out of them. Distorted voices provide the soundtrack to this entrancing film. Through September 29. 320 B Detering St., 713-542-3802. — MD
"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
"James Turrell: Holograms" The normally well-lit Hiram Butler Gallery has gone dark for its current show — holograms by the famed light artist James Turrell. He's best known of late for his skyspaces — meditative areas both indoor and out that encourage you to sit while they play with your perception of light. These spaces are minimal works that require little on your part but are still wholly immersive. Like the famous skyspaces, these works also play with perceptions of light, but they aren't such a passive experience. Rather, these six holograms demand interaction — a call and response that will have patrons unconsciously doing the "hologram dance," as the gallery's taken to calling it — a silly shuffle from side to side that enables you to experience the glowing pieces three-dimensionally. The six holograms on view are unnamed, though they can be distinguished by the distinct color and shape of their subject — light itself. A thin blue and green sphere, an orange beam, a blue ring and a slanted blue oval, all glowing against a stark black background, comprise the four long transmission holograms hanging across from each other in the main space. As you move from side to side, the light changes color and shape, coming out at you without the aid of cheesy 3D glasses. Though they don't rival them in size, the exhibition's two smaller holograms are the most remarkable on view. They're smaller than an iMac and feature crisper and bolder holograms. The bluish-green circle in the last hologram is so sharp and real looking, you can't help but try to grasp it with your hand, only to go through it like some geometric ghost. Through September 22. 4520 Blossom St., 713-863-7097. — MD
"Lillian Warren: Wait With Me" Lillian Warren captures all types of existential boredom in her fantastic painting installation Wait With Me, now covering the walls of Lawndale Art Center's Grace R. Cavnar Gallery. The artist, who previously trafficked primarily in documenting urban landscapes, became fascinated with her own boredom one day and decided to capture complete strangers without their knowing while they waited — for their number to be called at the DMV, to board their plane or at the mall for who knows what. Though strangers every one, they're all united by their boredom while at the same time wholly unique. On about 20 or so sheets of Mylar, Warren has beautifully captured their body language — the way a hefty man crosses his legs, the way a bag hangs half-open from a woman's arm, the way a man slouches, sinking down into his chair. These are all real people — and not just because they were pulled from the artist's own experiences but because they were drawn that way. Warren goes a step further with her concept and has her unwitting models appear several times across panels of the Mylar to subtly reflect the passage of time. They change positions slightly, cross or uncross their legs, look down at their phones. She also draws them to different scales — some loom front and center, while others are smaller, receding farther into the never-ending white space as if in their own whitewashed limbo. It's hard not to enjoy this work. Through September 29. 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — MD
"Michael Petry: Bad Restoration" There's a bit of backstory to Michael Petry's new body of work. While the Texas-born, London-residing multimedia artist was in a residency last year at Sir John Soane's Museum in London, the museum was undergoing a restoration project. This idea of restoration pervades his pieces — they're works that are seemingly ruined. At the same time, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray had a major influence — the idea of a piece representing the passage of time, reflecting back an image of a person that isn't really there. The result is eight glass mirror pieces that are currently hanging in the front room of Hiram Butler Gallery. They're called mirrors, but you wouldn't trust them to help you apply your eyeliner in the morning. They're broken, consisting of layers of thin sheets of glass and pieces of sterling silver or 24-karat gold, one over the other. They'll only reflect back a partial, broken form of yourself, with the intent to make you pause and think about how you present yourself to the world. Or something like that. I was too distracted by the beautiful damage of the silver- and gold-leaf pieces to notice my own shattered reflection. In each work, the gold or silver has complex layers and textures that look at turns like ridges, the contours of fingerprints or, in the case of silver especially, broken surfaces of ice. The surface of all these images has been compromised, but they're being displayed nonetheless, warts and all. It's a funny and completely modern thought — this idea of constantly wanting to improve and restore, and that going badly despite your best intentions. Yet there's still beauty in the damage. Through September 22. 4520 Blossom St., 713-863-7097. — MD
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