Three Mixed Shows in One at Barbara Davis Gallery

(From left) "Lost?", "Meditation" and "Lost?" by Ruth Shouval
(From left) "Lost?", "Meditation" and "Lost?" by Ruth Shouval

The current show at Barbara Davis Gallery is actually three, as three different artists present their own exhibitions to mixed results.

The first will be very familiar to regular 4411 Montrose gallery goers. Ruth Shouval's unique relief prints in "Settle" continue a series last seen at Barbara Davis a couple of months ago. In that show, four black-and-white pieces depicting the outline of a house, and then its abstraction, filled a back wall. The strong contrast was the highlight of the group show. Here, the Houston artist continues her work with this symbol, filling up the whole front room with a series of new prints.

Much of the work is very reminiscent of that earlier work, as Shouval contrasts a straightforward grid of a house with its deconstructed counterpart. What was new and exciting back in the summer is now all too familiar and repetitive.

But she builds on the idea by presenting three pieces that have a labyrinth within the home's frames. The straightforward "Meditation," which features an undisturbed vision of this home, is flanked by "Lost?," two deconstructed versions of that print, the home disheveled and bent out of shape. It's an obvious symbol of home and place -- and lacking a home and place -- but resonates strongly.

"Love Story" by Andrea Bianconi
"Love Story" by Andrea Bianconi

Andrea Bianconi focuses on matters of the heart in his show "Romance," where the mixed-media artist presents a mix of sculpture and drawings that meditate on love.

But despite the name, it's not very romantic, at least not in the typical saccharine sense. The main focal point is two vases, one black, the other white, that consist of flowers covered in glue and enamel. They are wilting in this mess, frozen in their decay. As another symbol, this one of love, they're fascinating, beautiful pieces.

As for the rest of the works, Bianconi's accompanying ink drawings are less refined and well-executed, and a video animation promised on the handout was nowhere to be found among his works.

Lastly, Anthony Thompson Shumate presents a series of textual pieces in "Sweetly Broken." In four works, enamel is hand-painted onto birch plywood to spell out what are essentially still lifes.

"Two half-filled goblets obscured by an unruly, counterfeit ivy on a windowsill," reads one. "A ripe, swollen, nibbled peach rests alone, bleeding on a fresh table linen," reads another. Shumate could have drawn these compositions for us in the traditional sense, but instead he chooses to dictate them most ironically in overly artistic language.

In an intriguing move, the text, and the image created by that text, are more important than the reproduction of the still life itself.

The last piece of the show is less satisfying. "Momento" features two rows of randomly blinking lights. It's meant to be interactive, somehow, but I never got the point of it.

"Ruth Shouval: Settle," "Andrea Bianconi: Romance" and "Anthony Thompson Shumate: Sweetly Broken" at Barbara David Gallery, 4411 Montrose, runs now through November 9. For more information, call 713-520-9200 or visit www.barbaradavisgallery.com.

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