Going to Gallery 1724, a salon-slash-gallery in the Museum District, you can never be too sure what's the newest artwork for display and what's just business as usual. So in the space's current show, curated by artist and proprietor Emily Sloan, if you find yourself wandering into the bathroom, don't worry, you're in the right place.
As you enter the unconventional gallery, to your right, Houston artist David McClain has filled the walls of the room with art traditionally framed and displayed in a grid. He calls it his "Lawyers" series, and in it, the artist (a lawyer himself, though he's currently not practicing) uses as source material meta magazine ads that advertise specialized law services geared towards other lawyers. He paints over the people and text in thick lines and patches, obscuring and revealing to create works that subvert the ad's original meaning. Phrases like "Experience counts," "Integrity" and "Innovative solutions," meant to differentiate the lawyers and their services, are now exposed for how conventional they all are.
Alongside the "Lawyers" series is "Works of Paper," an installation that layers the bathroom inside and out with paintings. McClain refers to his process here as "painting as meditation." Working in an undisciplined, unconscious process, the artist has created works that range from the abstract -- splotches and rivers of moody color -- to more representational -- mostly faces and bodies composed in a naive style. There's also the rare photograph, which is the artist's primary medium. In such a confined space, it's a thrilling explosion of creativity.
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In the next room, Russ Havard's small graphite drawings line the walls. Like McClain, the Lufkin artist has an almost meditative process. He starts with a shape -- a circle, an oval, a line -- which morphs into a strong recognizable form, from a fish to a tree to a pendulum in motion. They're mostly white and gray drawings, as if his little scenes are constantly overcast, though there brief, welcome moments of spontaneous color.
The show is titled "Unpremeditated Natures," which speaks well to the intuitive, carnal process of the artists. At the same time, they couldn't be more different -- where McClain's paintings are wild and spontaneous, Havard's are controlled and ordered. It's a compelling pairing.
"Unpremeditated Natures: Russ Havard and David McClain" at Gallery 1724, 1724 Bissonnet Street, runs now through January 26. For more information call 713-582-1198 or visit www.gallery1724.blogspot.com.