Six Different Artists, Six Different Approaches at Barbara Davis Gallery

"f.nyc" by Sara Bichão
"f.nyc" by Sara Bichão

"Six Apart," Barbara Davis's new exhibition as part of ArtHouston, is a pretty random show. The six artists come from as far away as Portugal and as close as Houston. They work in sculpture, painting, installation and on paper. There are vivid, intricate paintings, and minimal black and white drawings. And the materials range from cement and glue, wood panel and lithography to crushed glass and two-way mirrors.

As the name implies, this disjointedness is the point of the exhibition. And this is an ArtHouston show after all, part of an annual festival that strives to liven up the slow, hot summer art scene with fresh works from emerging artists. In thinking of it in those terms, this miscellaneous little show succeeds.

Lisbon's Sara Bichão kicks things off with a bold red 3-D wall sculpture, "f.nyc," a dripping, diamond-shaped piece that juts out as if some bloody extension of the white gallery wall. It consists of concrete and glue, making for a rough, raw feel. And the red drips along the concrete edges, essentially running horizontally, which makes for an unexpected gravity-defying aspect.

Houston's Daniel McFarlane also explores dripping qualities in his paintings, though his are entirely manipulated by hand. He sets rigid, wooden, geometric shapes against solid backgrounds of automotive paint, and then adds oozing layers of acrylic paint in various colors. There's great tension in these planes, which seem to float in vivid time and space.

"Fragile" series by Ruth Shouval
"Fragile" series by Ruth Shouval

All goes to stark black and white with Houston artist Ruth Shouval's "Fragile" series, which consists of two very different takes on a house. In two pairs of prints, Shouval depicts a house in the most basic, elementary way possible -- 11 thick black lines -- and then as an abstraction of itself, the lines running crooked, ruined and completely unstable on a crumbled piece of paper. It's simple yet elegant, this contrast of calm and chaos, and is one of the strongest parts of the show.

"The Unfortunate Nature of Lithography #5" by Jon Swindler
"The Unfortunate Nature of Lithography #5" by Jon Swindler

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Jon Swindler of Athens, Georgia, also works in prints that are damaged and imperfect, though not necessarily on purpose. In "The Unfortunate Nature of Lithography #5," Swindler creates an installation of cascading poplar frames, which display lithographs of related imagery. They're all tied to a drawing of what appears to be an elephant stuffed animal, though there's hardly a perfect print among them. Some are blackened, others off-center. They're the visual "left-overs," as Swindler calls them, the mistakes he's made in the process, displayed for all to see. It's a documentation of his failure, which is such a brave, funny and useful idea. Nothing goes to waste, and even bad art can find a purpose.

The show also features Edward Schexnayder's perplexing wall-mounted abstract sculptures, which feature black and white crushed glass arranged on particleboard with names like "Introduction to Civil War" and "The Culture Industry," and Troy Stanley's "Forest, Tree, Line" -- four wooden boxes with two-way mirrors. The former you barely want to breathe too close to, in fear that you'd disrupt the glass, while the latter you are encouraged to pick up and rearrange to see how the mirrors react to each other. I'd encourage it, too. If you don't interact with the piece, there's not much to see here.

"Six Apart" at Barbara Davis Gallery, 4411 Montrose, runs through August 25. For more information, call 713-520-9200 or visit www.barbaradavisgallery.com.


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