Capsule Art Reviews: June 12, 2014

"Alongside" The Barbara Davis Gallery's exhibition of "Alongside," a group showing of nine artists, is international indeed, with some Houston contributors joined by artists from New York, Sweden and Denmark and one who was born in Israel and now resides in Providence, Rhode Island. Dominating the entrance is Snowcanoes by Denmark's Mie Olise, part representational, part abstract, deeply involving, powerful and rewarding. Quieter and simpler in composition is New Yorker Robert Kelly's Baltic Portal III. Its directness has its own charm; it is curiously soothing in its regularity and choice of pigments. Houston's Paul Fleming has a site-specific work, Borrowed Time, composed of hundreds of small button-like circles, rising from the floor to the ceiling in a graceful journey, as though a flock of birds had taken flight. It is detailed, and intriguing. Houston's Troy Stanley has a concrete collage, close to monochromatic, that moves at the top from lacelike filigree to a rougher texture at its bottom, where concrete has been added. It is highly original, and courageous. East Hampton's iconoclastic Matthew Satz, famed for his literal tar-and-feathers works, is showing Untitled, Smoke Painting (60x60"), whose complexity is in the fine detail, resulting in a stunning work-of-art. Sweden's Ditte Ejlerskov provides rich texture in a very original work, with two canvases interlaced and woven together, with the canvas below split into tassels. Titled The Baroque Tassel Painting, it marks Ejlerskov as a generous painter who gives her viewers a lot. Israel-born Yizhak Elyashiv provides ten panels of watercolors on paper, all part of one image that must be seen from as far away as possible, revealing a mountainous landscape, with echoes of Japanese work. It communicates a sense of a land isolated but strong and patient, awaiting its destiny. Through July 3. 4411 Montrose, 713-520-9200. — JJT

"Funnel Tunnel" Clunky, streaked wood and wiry metal are the last things one would consider using to celebrate Art League Houston and the colorful Montrose neighborhood that surrounds it. Then again, talent is as talent does, and bare-bones as they may be, Patrick Renner's pieces are feats of size and color. Bounded Operator (2012) is a wall of windows glued together and filled with sand, rock and gravel, mingled with pieces of wood splashed in tie-dye, exchanging its windowpane aesthetic for a swirling metal one. The rainbow brightness of Wooddauber (2012) is one of many rainbow-colored chunks of wood from Renner's "Vestigial Structures" show exhibited last year at Avis Frank Gallery. The two pieces are combined to create "Funnel Tunnel," a metal-on-wood masterpiece so big that Art League publicly called on volunteers to help paint the wooden strips in the weeks before its opening. Before then, Renner could be seen blowtorching metal pieces together to create a wiry foundation for the wooden strips to attach to. It would, however, be inaccurate to describe "Funnel Tunnel" as skeletal. While other Renner pieces may come off as hollow, the wood and metal in "Funnel Tunnel" work together to create an artwork representative of the inclusive nature of the area around it. Those wooden strips? Painted in the hues of the rainbow, they very accurately represent the diverse people, businesses and culture of Montrose. The metal? Permanently melded together to hold the rainbow strips of wood, it represents the collectivity of this community. These materials create a 180-foot civic art sculpture seen whirling down the center of Montrose Boulevard. "Funnel Tunnel" will be on display in front of Art League Houston for the next nine months. 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530. — AO

"Jim Nolan: Apropos of Nothing" The name Art Palace may suggest royalty, but its current exhibition is deliberately lowbrow. Jim Nolan loves plastic flowers, and makes good use of them in this, his second solo show at Art Palace. Nolan can paint beautifully — see his Flower Portrait Pink — but even here his demon imp has added, unobtrusively, the bar-code tag. Very in-your-face is his ABV#4 — w/ Bottle, as colorful and attractive large dots clustered together are pierced by an actual three-dimensional beer bottle, ugly indeed, and that is its point — Nolan's irreverence is a send-up of an art world that sometimes can take itself too seriously. There's a refreshing cheerfulness about Nolan's art. His ABV# — Tight Cluster again has a cluster of large dots, in pale colors, and its simplicity is endearing, interesting and involving. The most ambitious work is My New Flag, composed of two large circles on the wall and on the floor a black backing for a round glass table top, resting on socks; I have absolutely no idea what it means — that is probably Nolan's point. Through July 11. 3913 Main, 281-501-2964, — JJT

"Jim Seigler: My Life With the Circus" Jim Seigler began designing for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the early 1950s. He designed sets, floats and costumes, but there's much more — Seigler is also an accomplished ceramicist and a sensitive portrait artist. Hyde Park Gallery presents "Jim Seigler: My Life With the Circus," documenting Seigler's range of talents in its cavernous spaces. Seigler graduated from The Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida, which developed in him an affinity for vivid colors and dynamic figures. A notable exception is three charcoal portraits from 1949, which offer compelling glimpses of lives fully led and indicate a sympathetic bonding with humanity, in all its frailty. There are sketches of spectacular pageantry, revealing an intriguing grace that approaches elegance. Some works are solitary sketches for garments, but Seigler shapes them to life, showing the wearer as well as the garment. There are clowns and ringmasters galore, and girls riding elephants, and a Harem Girl sketch for a pageant that reminded me of Aubrey Beardsley's work. Elephants on Parade is elaborate in wit, with the elephant wearing a hat with nine large globes and the rider wearing a cape with a huge train. There are brightly colored ceramic sculptures, often of clowns with witty, exaggerated hats; these are delightful. Come see this most colorful and engaging exhibition. Through June 21. 115 Hyde Park, 713-524-6913, — JJT

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"Sharon Kopriva: Illuminations" Sharon Kopriva has a summer home in the mountains, and her artistic journey has been strongly influenced by northern Idaho, much in evidence in her solo show, where forest scenes frame cathedral windows in several paintings. The Deborah Colton Gallery seems to be an arboretum pulsing with life as Kopriva's paintings have evolved into sculpture, incorporating leaves and moss, twigs, and branches, enriching the texture and welcoming us into the mysteries of nature. Cathedral Green dominates the gallery, both with its size and its power, as the forest threatens to overwhelm us, but we gain hope as light cascades through its Gothic window. Gothic Green uses the arching of tree branches to form the shape of an invisible cathedral window, and the light here seduces us into its encouraging embrace. Emancipation of the Topiaries is a dreamlike work, referencing Hieronymus Bosch, as monstrous apparitions feed — the evil side of the forest primeval, as doglike creatures of the night escape their chains. There are a number of self-portraits, a new arena for Kopriva, and I sense these are experiments in which she's feeling her way. There is a self-portrait sculpture of her titled Taking Flight, half woman and half broomstick, that is powerful and witty, and the work of a master confidently in control. In her spiritual journey, the new group of cathedral-like forest scenes is called Verde, and there's an earlier phase called Terra where browns rather than greens dominate. The works here are equally powerful, illustrated by three wall sculptures I think of as the "canoe" series; the sculptures have figures nestled — or imprisoned — in spaces as in a dugout. Joan of Arc has a young woman clinging to a cross as she struggles above a network of faggots and kindling wood. Through June 26. 2445 North Boulevard, 713-869-5151. — JJT

"The Texas Aesthetic VII: Minding the Texas Tradition" William Reaves Fine Art specializes in Texas artists who are influenced by and carry on the traditional portrayal of Texas landscapes. This is the seventh year of an annual group show, with 16 such artists exhibiting. One striking work by Laura Lewis is Boogie Woogie Blues — Cotton Harvest, featuring a vibrant sunset with the foreground filled with thousands of cotton bolls, and light and shadow playing on the plants tinged with richly rewarding blues. Jon Flaming's Abandoned Texaco, West Texas conveys a gentle sense of loss as the hustling modern world leaves behind a small-town single gas pump, once valued, now lonely and isolated. Jeri Salter's Alley View shows a dirt road and the backs of commercial buildings, as old-fashioned telephone poles lead one's eye into the drab distance, while red paint on some of the buildings provides relief from the grayness. Houston artist Erik Sproghe's Ruminations provides rolling hills in the background, reclining cattle on a field in the foreground and the skeletal head of a steer nailed to a fencepost, warning us of some possible calamity. William Montgomery's Long Billed Curlew fascinates with a finely detailed portrait of a placid curlew in the foreground and an oil refinery in the distance, posing the contrast between nature and development. Randy Bacon gives us Gonzalez, a portrait of a red-brick building of unusual proportions and details. It is aware that its chimneys are beautiful, its entrance welcoming, its balcony graceful and its sturdy elegance admirable. Mary Baxter is showing an intriguing work, Contrabando, depicting a waterway that has dried up, with orange-red buildings on distant hills. It becomes difficult to lament the drought when it can create such beauty. Through July 12. 2313 Brun, 713-521-7500, — JJT

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