Capsule Art Reviews: "Edward Lane McCartney: Shift," "A Crack in Everything," "John Sonsini: New Paintings," "Luminous," "New Paintings: Geoff Hippenstiel," "Since I've Been Away"

"Edward Lane McCartney: Shift" With the vibrant, chromatic works on paper and plastic currently up at Goldesberry Gallery, you'd think Carlos Cruz-Diez was back in town. You'd only be half wrong. This past spring, Edward Lane McCartney took a course with the Venezuelan kinetic and Op artist while he was in town for his MFAH run, and Cruz-Diez clearly left a strong impression. Since that time, McCartney has produced an impressive amount of work in paper and jewelry now on display at the Upper Kirby gallery in "Shift." Like Cruz-Diez, McCartney employs stacked lines of solid bold colors that play with light and movement. But the Houston artist breaks away from just rectangular blocks, creating sculptures in the shape of circles, like neon pinwheels or Rolodexes, and empire lampshades. And his technique is also all his own, as he inserts sheets of blue, green, yellow and red paper between the pages of paperback books to create his lines of color. Like Cruz-Diez's work, the resulting pieces aren't meant to be viewed straight on — moving slightly to the right or left changes the color and shape of each one for a nifty optical effect. The title of the show refers to the way his works play on color, as well as the show itself, which is a departure for the political artist, whose recent work has addressed "Don't ask, don't tell" and pedophilia in the Catholic Church. McCartney is also a skilled jeweler, and that talent is on display here. There are miniature versions of his paper sculptures in the form of earrings and necklaces, along with other pieces. These works can be put on display — the textured, metal pieces even hang on the wall, like paintings — but they're meant to be worn by those who are as bold as the color themselves. It all makes for a fun, playful show that's completely enjoyable. Through March 17. 2625 Colquitt, 713-528-0405. — MD

"A Crack in Everything" The highly touted Seattle dance troupe zoe | juniper completely transforms DiverseWorks Art Space into its own dark, weird, womb-like dreamland. The artists create an entirely unfamiliar, unnerving place through innovative video, projection and sound techniques. It's the kind of installation that makes you say "what the hell?" — but in a good way. As with many other avant-garde multimedia productions, it's hard to describe exactly what happens in "A Crack in Everything," which explores such big concepts as memory and time. But for starters, you're greeted by two wall-size photographs depicting an orderly line of naked, pale people in a forest, their heads covered by fur and their chests painted silver. Walking through a dark hallway as if you're one of the naked blind, you're flanked by two screens that depict a half-naked woman — choreographer Zoe Scofield — wearing only white underwear with silver paint down her chest and stomach. She's dancing in jabbing yet still graceful moves, her form multiplied and overlapped hypnotically. You then reach a slightly elevated white platform that has two large screens propped next to each other — this is the real meat of the installation. There's enough room to walk between them or on either side, or you can sit on risers against opposite walls and watch. On both screens, an hour-long video loop features projections of life-size dancers wearing futuristic black tunics. Their images multiply, overlap, disappear and reappear. (In several live upcoming performances, dancers will play with these, bending what's real and what's not even further, though the installation does stand alone with or without this element.) There's more strange beauty to behold in this installation, but some pieces simply defy concise synopsis, sparking deep, emotional reactions that are unique to each viewer — go see it for yourself. Through February 25, with live dance performances at 1 p.m. February 4, 11, 18 and 25. 1117 East Fwy., 713-223-8346. — MD

"John Sonsini: New Paintings" Anyone acquainted with John Sonsini's work knows the drill. The Angeleno would find subjects for his portraits by picking up day laborers at street corners and Home Depot parking lots, paying them their normal hourly wages to sit for him. They picked their clothes and poses, and Sonsini painted them mostly straight on. Given the rare opportunity for this country's Mexican immigrants to represent themselves as they, for the most part, see fit, the concept has the makings of a saccharine Hollywood script. But these are good, painterly paintings. The 11 works on view at Inman Gallery demand that you spend time with them, examining each quick, thick brush stroke, noting the acute attention to detail in every puff of chest hair or thin mustache — a remarkable task, given the abstract quality of the work — and returning the gaze of each of the male subjects. The subjects sport jeans, khakis, security uniforms and, predominantly in this show, fútbol attire, soccer balls held close to their sides. One subject chose to go topless, leaning against a table, a perfect illustration of the raw honesty that these portraits convey. The unique expressions on each of the subjects' faces are also remarkable. The eyes — seemingly the same black pupils on white — are all uniquely expressive. Their postures, too, are carefully composed, arms fiercely crossed, or hands casually in pockets. All the men are painted against more free-form blocks of pastels. In some spots, these backgrounds aren't complete, revealing the white of the canvas. This unfinished quality gives the pieces a hurried feel, an appropriate sense of time and labor spent. I do have one serious gripe with Sonsini's admirable work, though — where are the ladies? Through February 25. 3901 Main, 713-526-7800. — MD


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"Luminous" The seven artists in this show are united well by their use of light — either simply using it as a tool, manipulating it or toying with its meaning — but some pieces simply work better than others. Tobias Fike's Half the Speed of Light Is Constant and Cannot Be Touched is especially effective. It features a narrow, house-like wooden structure with a window that's lit from within by a bulb. At first glance, it seems like something's missing — that's it? — though the exhibition list notes that you can touch the work. When you do, you immediately feel a heartbeat. Of course, it's not really a heartbeat, but it feels like one — you know that thumping rhythm. Somehow, Fike has trapped the vibration from more than 60 of the artist's family members clapping to his heartbeat inside the piece, and it assumes an unexpected alive quality — the wood gives off warmth, and you hear the vibration more than you feel it. It's a deeply personal piece that you soon become attached to, your own heartbeat trying to match the rhythms of the wood's in that weird way. Also of note is co-curator Annie Strader's Locating Eden, which features a Remington typewriter standing on a table, on a bed of soil. Adding to this indoor-outdoor puzzle, the serene image of clouds is projected onto the typewriter's paper. Another standout is co-curator Matthew C. Weedman's Freeman, a video featuring a small astronaut toy made larger than life, lit by a storm of bright blues that are a shock of color in this largely black-and-white show. My favorite piece has to be Kristen Beal's June, for its display of old-timey ingenuity and craft. She's made miniature scenes of her native Kansas landscape — a horse grazing, a looming water tower, even a moving oil rig — and positioned and lit them so that just their shadows cast against the wall. They're supported by wooden blocks, laid out like a road that you happily travel along. Through February 25. Box 13 ArtSpace, 6700 Harrisburg Blvd., 713-533-8692. — MD

"New Paintings: Geoff Hippenstiel" It seems trite to say an artist's work is exciting — how often have you heard that before? But that's the exact reaction I had when viewing Geoff Hippenstiel's new, large paintings at Devin Borden Gallery. In his first solo show here since his well-received MFA show at the University of Houston in spring 2010, the abstract oil paintings are almost too big for the gallery to contain. They take up its main exhibition space, its storeroom, even its office, making for some nice, colorful scenery at two desks. Every single one of these works is untitled — even the show is simply called "New Paintings" — but they're not without their own backstories. In short, the Houston artist starts off with one central image — Monet's lilies, Cézanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire, even, randomly, a Goya-bust award statue — and paints. He paints until the original inspiration is barely recognizable, though traces of it remain beneath the surface. As a result, the paintings feel familiar, and yet completely new. Whether it's the starting image or the artist's obsessive painting over it, the same material is always used — oil paint — but in an almost meta moment, Hippenstiel's viscous patches of metallic paint start to take over the work. The paint itself — its color and its thickness — becomes the subject, squeezing out the lilies or covering the pale gold of the Goya head in a bright green. In another painting, the original image is indiscernible, covered almost entirely in a thick blanket of shiny silver, erasing whatever came first. Experiencing the effacing quality of paint in this context is simple, but still exciting and completely alluring. The paint wins. Through March 13. Devin Borden Gallery, 3917 Main, 713-529-2700. — MD

"Since I've Been Away" David Lozano's paintings lie to you. In his solo show at PG Contemporary's new space, there's image after image of psychedelic patterns of blues, magentas and greens. These ribboned, weaving or spastic splashes of color stretch out, like pours of paint, over fuzzed-out, blown-up photos of rooms, street scenes or entirely unrecognizable grounds. But in fact, it's all meticulously, painstakingly planned. The seemingly random "pours of paint," à la Jackson Pollock? Created with a brush and sign painter's enamel. Those fuzzed-out "photographs" that, combined with the enamel, seem to evoke another dimension? Airbrushed (not the Photoshop kind, but the painting kind). It's a neat trick at first when you realize those intense, bold colors are not the work of some elaborate pouring process, but the hand of the artist, who's clearly studied paint movement. But with painting after painting of the same thing, this trick quickly loses its charm. While the pieces are fun, even "fabulous," as the artist says — there's even one yellow, orange and blue concoction aptly called "Joy Pop" — beyond that initial illusion that attracts your eye, there's not much substance. It's all contrived chaos, with the paintings lacking the carefree, spontaneous nature that they seem to be trying to convey. There was one piece that managed to stand out from the dozen other loud works — the teal, orangey-pink "Crush of Glimmer." This one stood apart, thanks to some detailed, even sensual, patterns that abandoned the effect of poured paint, and a stretch of pink and blue sequins. Yes, sequins. It's a pretty campy number as a result of this "bling bling," to use the words of a gallery-goer. But it's one that can really call itself fabulous. Through February 11. 3227 Milam, 713-523-7424. — MD

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