Capsule Art Reviews: June 26, 2014

"Bob Schneider: We Invented Love" The artist Bob Schneider is torn in different directions. Part of him wants to teach or intrigue us with ideas. Part of him wants to cater to his keen visual sense. And part wants to demonstrate his skill with the intaglio process, incising directly onto steel plates. The exhibition title comes from his recently published book of poetry and art collages: "We invented love somehow, and without mercy or instruction, half a head coming out of the water in the night." I admired enormously a sculpture of a phrenologist's head; the front of it has slipped partially off, revealing a human face behind a ceramic mask. The head and face are covered with a detailed world map, extending past a sculptured neck onto a box with an open door, within which lies...a rock. The work is complex, significant and witty, elements that play to Schneider's strength. There are five works painted on slightly weathered windows, seemingly jocular, and deliberately thin. Schneider has an affinity for severed limbs — these are sometimes intriguing but not necessarily comfortable to be around. One etching stands out for its originality and power, The Wild Melancholy — a torso with multiple male genitalia. The mouth and a male organ have balloons with lettering issuing from orifices. "Wild," indeed, and "Melancholy," since the man's arms are severed, as is his right leg. Schneider intends to challenge us, and perhaps is too successful at it. He has enormous gifts — it will be educational to follow his progress as he continues to explore different paths — one of them may lead to greatness. Through June 28. d.m. allison gallery, 2709 Colquitt, 832-607-4378. — JJT

"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

"Lorena Morales: The Space Within" The intimate Galeria Regina has an unusual exhibition, "The Space Within," consisting of the visual art of Venezuela-born Lorena Morales, with each work accompanied by a poem by Houston's own Gerald Cedillo. Morales uses vivid colors on Plexiglas, often in geometric patterns, to create interest and tension. Featured here are a series of works with stripes in varying colors, and also a series that center on circles to capture the eye. The stripes are often interwoven, and the colors of the stripes can either contrast or segue into related tones. Pieces in the circles series are called "Chromospheres" — they tend to dominate the gallery space, as their vividness and concentric energy provide commanding power. There is a larger, attractive painting, Summer Sun, with orange and blue circles on embossed paper, that stands out because of its open, uncluttered space. Morales invited Cedillo to create poems inspired by her art. The result is interesting indeed, as Cedillo has a gift for expression and the capacity to view the world with original insights, poetically expressed with sincerity and quiet charm. Excerpted lines may illustrate this talent. For Summer Sun: "I was a cloudburst / full of grandfather clocks." Color Weave #2, mostly green and gray stripes: "Its longing stays / like salt on the tongue." For Color Weave #5, orange, red, magenta and purple stripes: "Don't stand on the world's chest." For the blue and green circled Chromospheres, he wrote: "...the fairy-tale land / of lost speech." Cedillo is from Rosenberg, and is an organizer for Houston's Word Around Town poetry tours. This is the fourth solo exhibition of Morales in the U.S., and last year she had an individual exhibition in Dresden, Germany. Through July 20. 1716 Richmond, 713-523-2524, — JJT

"Steamrolled IV: Balance" Art gatherings take many forms, but few are as dramatic as the annual creation of oversize woodcut prints, done this year at Saint Arnold Brewing Company on April 27 as a two-ton steamroller did the final inking. Rockin' Rollin' Prints selects a theme — this year it's "Balance" — and 75 artists created woodprints on 3/4-inch MDF or wooden boards, from 2'x3' to 3'x5' in size, the size of the drum of the steamroller. Many of the prints are juried into the fourth annual exhibition, sponsored by PrintMatters, with the juror this year the noted artist Yizhak Elyashiv. Some woodcuts are beautiful, such as Deceived by Tera Yoshimura, in which a naked Eve looks away from the apple as a huge serpent coiled around the tree tempts her; it is laced with tension. Perhaps the most complex is Marco Guerra's mysterious and haunting Balance, a night scene in an alley with a sign that reads "Don't be scared." A man on an old-fashioned bicycle is crossing a high wire, with no audience for the dangerous net-less daring. In another high-wire scene rich in humor, Ta-da!, by Mark Masterson and Monica Vidal, a man on a monocycle is cheered on by a woman who has lost her own balance on the wire. Black magic is treated with humor and wit by Yannini Taboada in This ain't nothing, as a male figure holds aloft in his left hand an infant while he stands on a page in a book of the occult. His left hand is grappling with a man, who in turn is fighting with the infant for some keys, while on the ground is a youth ignoring all this and calmly studying the book of sorcery. Through June 29. Gallery M Squared, PrintHouston 2014, 339 West 19th, 713-861-6070. — 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

"Tradition and Translation: Extension of Nature" Two Japanese artists share an exhibition of consummate subtlety and artistry. Mari Omori's work embodies the fragile sensitivity of the female principle. Masaru Takiguchi's sculptures embody the strength and virility of the male principle. Omori's fragile works, however, are also powerful, and Takiguchi's tough-minded sculptures show a sensitivity that is remarkable. Omori uses tea bags, or tea bag packaging, as her medium, though the casual viewer wouldn't know it. Her Sun Dial is a richly textured but quiet extravaganza with a spiraling effect, the outer edges seemingly serrated. It is composed entirely of hundreds of the envelopes that tea bags come in. In Omori's vessel iii, a beehive is enclosed in a dark brown wrap, open but tied together, with the ties echoing antennae, ominous and threatening. A companion piece, vessel ii, is pale, almost white, and filled with empty tea bags arrayed to create a sense of fluffiness. The result is a fascinating contrast as a bonus. Takiguchi works in wood, stone and metal, creating abstract sculptures that provide no narrative but rely instead on graceful curves and richness of materials to enchant the viewer. Be sure to spend time with Memory of Butterfly, in richly veined walnut, and marvel at how hardwood can be transformed into soft, sprightly curves. Wind and Rain is made from pine, as individually carved wood segments are arrayed to create a spiral staircase — powerful, evocative and haunting. In stone, Takiguchi uses Tennessee marble for The Wave and Spring Haze, and Brazilian black granite for his Night Ocean, pairing a glossy exterior with a textured interior. The artwork is presented by Arts Brookfield in cooperation with Hooks-Epstein Galleries, Inc. Through July 30. Total Plaza, Lobby Level, 1201 Louisiana, 713-336-2280. — JJT


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