Capsule Art Reviews: "Jackie Gendel: Fables in Slang" "Nathan Green: Fill the Sky" "Perspectives 174: Re: Generation" "Voodoo Pop: Mary Hayslip and Trey Speegle" "Wendy Wagner: Once Uponse a Time in the Land of O-Poppida"
"Jackie Gendel: Fables in Slang" Houston-born Jackie Gendel paints portraits and people in a style that recalls a number of late-19th-early-20th-century French painters, but with cranked-up distortion. Her people are constantly obscured by a surface abstraction, or they retreat into the background, virtually faceless with the furniture and decor surrounding them. Chaty and Marthe in the Kitchen is perhaps this series's most striking work, and it demonstrates Gendel's anti-narrative approach. Two women sit at a kitchen table looking epically bored. Their faces and hair are the most detailed parts of the painting, which is brilliantly colored as well. In fact, its brightness is in direct opposition to the malaise depicted. In Calloway, a 1930s-era man is surrounded by wild abstraction that is threatening to envelop him. In a trio of small gouache-on-paper works, Gendel's subjects turn noir-ish, suggesting an unknowable evil in the characters' black-and-white eyes. Field of Mars III looks like a scene out of Greek Myth updated by the presence of a woman in a 1980s outfit and hairdo. Gendel challenges our notions of art and history with mischievous and dreamy flourishes. Through July 2. Bryan Miller Gallery, 3907 Main, 713-523-2875. — TS
"Nathan Green: Fill the Sky" Art Palace is one of our favorite galleries, but we just don't get Nathan Green's current show "Fill the Sky." Some of the 25 abstract, mixed-media works score on their own, like Gradients, a conglomeration of black-and-white cylindrical forms that has a real sense of action in its composition, and Migration, a similar grouping of shapes with frenetic energy. But taken together, it feels like too much is on display. Abstract works can veer into embarrassing, this-is-bullshit territory, and some of the stuff here unfortunately does. It should have been edited. One wall is cluttered with paintings of various sizes with no discernible method or structure in its installation. Another entire gallery wall has been painted in columns of gradient green and blue stripes with a few paintings hung to it. It looks good, and it's a puzzling technique, but there's a messiness to it (as well as in several other works) that gives off a slapdash, kindergarten-chic vibe. It's a strange hybrid of a conceptual installation and an everything-must-go blowout sale. Through July 2. 3913 Main, 281-501-2964. — TS
"Perspectives 174: Re: Generation" This biennial exhibition organized by the CAMH's Teen Council showcases the work of Houston-area teens, and it features some wonderful stuff — you'll want to take down some names of artists to watch. The flagship image of the show is Alyssa Hansen's digital photograph Princess, a closeup on a teenage girl's lower lip, which she reveals to be tattooed with a crown. It's a generational line in the sand, an example of a phenomenon that makes perfect sense to those of a certain age, and yet it represents total absurdity to their elders. Another photograph, David Garrett Marsh's Fading Away, depicts an overweight girl sitting cross-legged at the side of a road, smoking. Next to her is a fuzzy gray cloud in the shape of another person, perhaps a friend. And the girl's face is strangely blurred — on closer inspection, her face is pixelated and raised off the surface of the paper. Ava Barrett's Deconstructed Hymnal: Wall of Sound is a hanging matrix of hymnal pages that walks a line between provocative and reverent. But Temin Adelaide Eng's Twilight doesn't pull punches on how it feels about its literary subject: Stephenie Meyer's series of vampire novels. Eng has constructed a miniature coffin, lined with pages from the novel, which she has burned. Its charred remains lie inside with only a portion of the cover and spine intact to identify it. And continuing the impressive photography on display is Brittany Nichols's Strange Manners, a scene of macabre domestic violence. A man wearing a rabbit mask lies dead on a kitchen floor, apparently stabbed to death by a woman, also rabbit-masked and bloody-handed. It's a coolly composed, lit and staged piece of narrative photography. Through June 26. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250.— TS
"Voodoo Pop: Mary Hayslip and Trey Speegle" This retrospective exhibition embodies three decades of Trey Speegle and Mary Hayslip's friendship, featuring items from their personal collections, paintings, collage, textile works, bits of correspondence and photos. After bonding with Hayslip in late-'70s Houston, Speegle relocated to NYC in 1980, but he and Hayslip remained friends for over 30 years while continuing their art careers. Speegle's work dominates the show, especially selections of his poppy paint-by-numbers pieces, which re-purpose vintage paint-by-numbers canvases to imagine hidden messages embedded within them — like You Who (self portrait), an image of a clown with the title text spelled in the exposed numbered outlines of the painting's surface. Other standout work includes Gold Carolyn, a portrait of Carolyn Farb from a 1981 Speegle show called "RePOP," which was a kind of Warholian take on Houston celebs including Marvin Zindler, Lynn Wyatt and Dominique de Menil; Hayslip's laminated magazine-paper flowers; and a display case with postcards, small sculptures, jewelry and photos of the two artists during the '80s. It's a sweet selection of artifacts from a friendship in art. Through June 24. Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530. — TS
"Wendy Wagner: Once Uponse a Time in the Land of O-Poppida" 2008 Hunting Prize winner Wendy Wagner makes fantasy-world imagery from the childlike realm of puppy dogs and cartoons. In early 2008, she presented her animated short The Eternity of a Second in DiverseWorks' "Flicker Fusion" video exhibit. That video (and others), as well as framed still images from Eternity and sculpture based on its content, appears in this show alongside a series of recent mixed-media paintings depicting children and animals. Sgt. Rock is a portrait of the artist's stepson posing with a Gatorade squirt bottle, binoculars hanging around his neck, wearing sunglasses with a large blue-glass bowl over his head like a helmet. It's as if he's prepared to hike the apple-green mountain range in the background. Me-and-ma Brownie Bling is another humorous portrait. A little blond girl in Brownie uniform smiles for her picture, revealing a gold front tooth. As in Sgt. Rock and Wagner's other child portraits on display, her subjects are surrounded by a rusticated comic-book-style border, adding a heightened mythical quality to the imagery. Through June 9. Darke Gallery, 320 Detering, 713-542-3802. — TS
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