The premise of Gallery Sonja Roesch's new exhibition is simple enough: artists who make painterly objects without using any paint. But the results are much more diverse and creative than you could imagine. The six artists in "No Paint" use materials ranging from Plexiglas and steel to lasers and even river sediments.
August Muth brings the lasers in his series of holographic squares. They might remind you of holograms by another light artist -- James Turrell -- and in fact, the New Mexico artist has been making Turrell's holograms since 1994. For his own work, Muth makes visual references to the solar system -- Mars and the sun specifically -- in several small, intimate pieces. They're two brilliant, beautiful subjects that would be difficult to convey in any medium, but come through in his dazzling holograms.
Texas artist Hills Snyder looks to a more basic object for inspiration -- the ladder -- in Ambassador. Despite the subject matter's ordinariness, this is no run-of-the-mill ladder; comprised of a sky-blue, reflective acrylic sheet over birch, it makes for a shiny art object that is comically dysfunctional and out of place, yet pleasing to look at.
The juxtaposition of resin and wood makes for an intriguing combination in German artist Harald Schmitz-Schmelzer's pieces. In a largely monochromatic show, these stand out for their clean lines of color, like a neater Rothko, made by submerging pigment into resin. They're very calculated, intentional works in everything from the colors used to the space between the lines of resin and wood.
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German artist Mario Reis, on the other hand, takes a much more improvisational approach in his practice. His two works are each comprised of nine canvases and displayed dramatically in tandem against the back wall. One is a dusty reddish brown, the other a dark forest green. The differences in color are owed to their origins -- one is comprised of sediment captured from a river in Boys Ranch, Texas, the other a river in Castile Rock, British Columbia. What makes for the differences in color, though, and why these two rivers? What significance do they hold to the artist? The pieces arouse many questions, which make them so engaging.
Not all the works in the show are as captivating. German artist Regine Schumann's minimal Plexiglas half-circles are awkwardly shaped and don't do much on the wall. Aldo Chaparro's Steel -- a crumbled piece of steel -- may also be too minimalist for some. But I liked the physicality of the work, which the Peruvian-born, Mexico City-based artist constructed by crumbling with his body. The piece also constantly changes depending on how you look at it, reflecting color and light off its mangled surface.
Overall, by pulling together artists from various parts of the globe working in completely different mediums and art-historical conversations, the show makes due on its promise to expand the definition of paint, while challenging your expectations of what painting can be. Not bad for a modest group show.
"No Paint" at Gallery Sonja Roesch, 2309 Caroline Street, runs now through June 29. For more information, call 713-659-5454 or visit www.gallerysonjaroesch.com.