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Capsule Art Reviews: April 2, 2015

"The Nature of Forms," "Intentionally Dirty" The current dual exhibitions at Nicole Longnecker Gallery — photographer Frank Sherwood White's "The Nature of Forms" and Julian Lorber's "Intentionally Dirty" — both illustrate the erosion of nature through thoughtful and captivating imagery, though the resemblance ends there. White plays with the shapes of rocks, often pitted and marred, seeing the curves of a human form and pairing those images with similarly shaped models. In about half of his pieces, he has placed a carefully lit subject out of the camera's field of vision, then positioned a rough-edged glass near the curved rock, so that the human form is reflected. The results are sublime, especially in Pelvis, where the ghostly image of the model's lap vanishes off the edge, bringing the viewer's eye back to the strength of the curved stone. His Horizontal Torso demonstrates the ephemeral beauty of a reclining nude, so faint that she almost disappears, with the highly imperfect rock dominating the foreground. Lorber presents textured paintings that simulate the effects of pollution, with fine, powdery layers of "dust" nestling in the cracks and crevices. In almost all of his pieces, he has either placed layers of archival tape at different angles or poured a resin form to produce the same effect, creating dimensionality upon which his dust (airbrushed paint or soot) can rest. The result is appealing, as in his Torrential Amber at Dawn, morphing from brown to pale yellow to sun yellow and finishing with a tangerine orange. Also successful are his smaller pieces, especially the yellow-gray-pale mauve gradations of Somewhere it hides a well; the icy blue, gray and copper tones of Salt of the Earth; and the bronzed peach and amethyst of Untitled. Through April 25. 2625 Colquitt, 713-591-4997, longneckergallery.com. — ST

"New Work" Modern-day oil tankers and container ships serve as the subject matter for Jeff Jennings's "New Work" exhibit at d.m. allison gallery, though the artist has captured these behemoths in their last moments of glory. After 25-30 years, these ships become uninsurable, are sold for salvage and often recycled in Bangladesh, India and China. Jennings traveled to Bangladesh to photograph the decommissioned ships for inspiration. Jennings has drawn in graphite longitudinal and latitudinal lines, then scribed the circle of a compass, and overlaid these cartographic reference points with accurate representations of these ships. The Muhammad Shah, with the tip of its stern removed, reflects hauntingly in the water alongside a ghostly sketch of a now-defunct ship. The cross-section of Joan of Arc reveals her many interior levels; the sole remaining life raft seems futile in view of the ship's fate. Similar in style but formed into 40" rounds are the Sabina #2, Louisa #2 and Thomas Wheeler #3; the latter is dissected with half its body resting lifeless on the water's edge. In defiance of the ship-breakers' assault, the Sabina #2 manages to stand majestic, tall and proud. The skies are always painted differently in each of Jennings's pieces, and change their tone depending on the light. The oversize Vittoria portrays the sky as a yellow cyclonic wave, a foreshadowing of the ultimate demise for this already cavernous and partially dismantled vessel. The monochromatic The Elements #2, with its splotchy atmosphere of graphite and gouache, stands defenseless in her solitude. For this last moment, the ship is still intact and whole, but the fading propeller tells the story of the coming storm. Through April 25. 2709 Colquitt, 832-607-4378, dma-art.com. — ST

"Paintings" In his new "Paintings" exhibit at Hiram Butler Gallery, acrylic artist Brooke Stroud calls upon both the known and the unknown, producing rectangular nature-inspired abstracts with saturated gradations of hue, punctuated by blocks of color. Two of his strongest pieces, 2015's Blue Standard and last year's Star Nursery, are perhaps ghostly embodiments of the ghost lights of Marfa. Blue Standard might be hard to find in the gallery, but it's worth the hunt. One is drawn to the glowing, ghostly orbs, almost pulsing as they float high in the star-dotted night sky, the misty beams attracting each other as if in silent, otherworldly communication. Upwardly vertical strokes of black heat rise from the ground and, in the distance, a small pale blue structure glows pink, as if echoing its response. In addition to outer space, Stroud also seems to be inspired by that other uncharted territory: the deep blue sea. His Apparition embodies the vertical movement of cobalt blue and teal spikes climbing from aquatic depths; a textured black floor of the deepest, blackest ocean rises up hungrily toward the light in Passage; and an olive and teal reptilian texture has been applied to Another Green World. The sunlight shining down through the water is beautifully rendered in Sea Beams, though the pink color block on this piece seems jarringly unfitting and out of place. The great expanse of our Texas landscape serves as inspiration for Lonesome Highway, with its peach-colored sky, as well as for The Burn, with its glowing mandarin-orange desert melting in the heat. The Calling shows the setting or rising sun against a textured black earth with a monolithic red edifice in the distance. Through April 25. 4520 Blossom, 713-863-7097, hirambutler.com. — ST

"Terroir: The Taste of a Place" Become instantly transported into the lives of Brazilian coffee plantation workers at portrait artist Chell Vassallo's "Terroir: The Taste of a Place" exhibit at Galeria Regina. Hailing from Brazil, where her grandfather worked the coffee fields, Vassallo has sketched in charcoal the faces of people she has met or photographs she has admired, portraying them in this earlier time and place. During the first half of the 19th century, 1.5 million slaves were imported to Brazil to work on plantations. All of her pieces exude energy and movement, telling the story of both the joys and the sorrows of life on the plantation, often through the eyes of a child. In My Kids, four boys peek around the door, each one's face showing a different emotion based on life experience. The oldest is demonstrably sad, the next is hopeful, the third is bashfully shy and the youngest, not yet scarred by life, is precocious. In Back Home, one can see the happy joy on the child's face as light streams through the opening door; the day's work is done. In Their Kids, a plump Caucasian baby is carried on the back of a turban-adorned worker who's clearly not his mother. There is more to life than work, and dignity is clearly preserved in these portraits. The Afro-American religion Candomblé is embraced by the plump woman in a lace dress, adorned with dozens of rings, bracelets and necklaces. Music serves as both respite from the day's work, as seen in the joyous heaven-cast face of the man playing the stringed percussion instrument in Berimbau, and as a cover for men practicing martial arts, disguised as dancing, in Capoeira. Through May 2. 1716 Richmond, 713-523-2524, galeriaregina.com. — ST

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