Allison Rathan: The Cutting Bridle The Exchange, 60"x48", is a self-portrait of the artist Allison Rathan striding behind a very large wolf on a metal leash. It captures the confidence of this artist, who has blond movie-star looks and the poise and litheness of a fashion model. The leash holder has a slit skirt that exposes a graceful leg, and her left hand is lightly cupping her left breast, a reminder that we are living in a world where sensuality rules. I've Come Home Now echoes the dark power of Wuthering Heights as a man inside a castle embraces a woman through an open window. That Night is a more complex picture; a woman wearing cut-off jeans stands in front of a chain-link fence, with the shadow of the chains reflected on her clothing and even her skin. Her face is not shown, but her back reveals intensity, power, danger — and perhaps fear of being encaged. Or, more likely, she is. Elsewhere in the gallery is a rusty white birdcage, empty, with the door open, so escape is possible. Reinless has another provocative beauty on a horse, her skirt flying. Rathan has a series of small portraits of heads; one, titled Foundling, has the look of a very young dark-haired beauty-to-come whose haunting expression indicates resignation, anticipation and hidden power. I liked best a departure for Rathan, The Red Balloon, a depiction of a charming village street that extends well into the distance. I suggest viewing this both up close and from afar; both will delight. Through September 4. Archway Gallery, 2305 Dunlavy, 713-522-2409, archwaygallery.com. — JJT
"Altered Angles: George Grochocki & Shayne Murphy" Two very different painters are having their work shown at the sleek Anya Tish Gallery — both take chances, and are courageous. George Grochocki seems minimalist but gives a lot, relying on three-dimensional shaping and the wit of almost-hidden color accents to add drama. All Quantities are Straight Unity is all white and has two vertical pillars, each with four varying recesses. This could be a maquette for a futuristic apartment house, or for an IKEA bookcase to house computers that will one day dominate us with elegance of design. His color accents come into play in Pluralities of the Plane Fall into the Unity of Shape, white with some black, where a small panel of pale gold color seems to want to escape a confining structure. Shayne Murphy has two paintings suggesting action figures from a graphic novel. Their titles, Blight and Calamity, hint at deeper meanings, which escape me, but I admired their vivid vigor. Remains of a Grimace has an air of mystery, purple globules piled behind restricting fragmented walls. St. Helena's Discotheque is my favorite, a building and its sidewalk floating mid-air like a figment of the imagination, but detailed in its depiction of trees and their shadows, with large blue vanes on a seemingly authentic roof — the vanes are yellow and purple on the edges. There is a solitary walking male figure who's wearing a shirt emblazoned with what I took to be the flag of Italy, with green, white and red vertical stripes. The work reveals the richness of Murphy's imagination, his dexterity and a cheerful outlook devoutly to be encouraged. Through August 15. 4411 Montrose, 713-524-2299, anyatishgallery.com. — JJT
The Beat'n Trail It's wonderful to enter a gallery and be struck immediately by a powerful work, my experience with an exhibition of Texas artists at the Alliance Gallery of the Houston Arts Alliance. The striking visual is a sculpture by Katie Pell titled Charming Are Your Unformed Wishes, a number of large wooden links, some curled on the floor, others interlocking and rising to the ceiling, to be continued even there. It was inspired by a family heirloom, a locket, and it gains enormously by its size. The wood is warm, making the links an ornament instead of a chain, and its immensity suggests a generosity of spirit and a richly expansive personality. George Zupp has a fabulous sense of humor that carries through into his art. He has a large wooden sculpture of a man in a casket, rough-hewn and open at the top to show the man's zombie-like face. It is also open below the waist to permit a large wooden column to protrude upward, unrealistically large, with a hatchet buried in its top. The work is titled, appropriately, The Last Woody, and has the primitive strength of folk art. Zupp has created a continuing character, a chimp, and the portrait of it here is titled Jolly Chimp, though the lettering over its head reads "Fail." The chimp is holding clashing cymbals, and has a wide-eyed air of rapt attention, as though trying to figure out a concept beyond its capacity to grasp. Zupp has several other works here as well, priced modestly. Other artists showing are Kenny Lantz, Steve Neves, Vachu Chilakamarri and Meredith "Butch" Jack. Through August 29. 3201 Allen Parkway, Suite 125, 713-581-6120, houstonartsalliance.com. — JJT
"lntroducing Elizabeth Fox" The d.m. allison gallery is dedicated to the exploration of emerging talent, as well as serving as a venue for established artists. Its group show features the works of Elizabeth Fox, whose paintings have a sprightly, highly contemporary look. The men are all fit and the women slender, with great anatomies, made clear by tight-fitting garments. Fox has a dry, subtle wit — Wish You Were Here has an attractive, mature couple in front of a birdhouse on a tree, with flying love birds and apparent domestic tranquility, while a streaming banner gives the woman's actual sardonic thought: "omg not another walk of shame...lol I could just." She is dying with amusement at the folly of men. Mystery Train has a woman putting her attaché case in the overhead rack while four men in a row, wearing suits and fedora hats, read newspapers, though two are secretly watching her. If the men give her any trouble, I have no doubt she can handle it. Jesse Lott is an African-American sculptor of great distinction who works with armatures and wire while building in the capacity for emotional power. His sculpture here dominates the gallery, presenting a man overcome with anguish. One artist, living under a bridge, offers his name as Hercules da Vinci. His Hollywood Hills, oil on a paper napkin, has a charming and subtle blend of colors, some figurative birds, and an insouciant cheerfulness that many might envy. Ann Harithas has a deceptively simple picture, an orange plane against a blue background, with a cowboy, and a tortured monk holding a football, a work as enigmatic as consciousness itself. Though August 30. 2709 Colquitt, 832-607-4378, dma-art.com. — JJT
"Marta Chilindron & Graciela Hasper: Dialogues" The Sicardi Gallery has paired two artists, one born in Montevideo and the other in Buenos Aires, who share an interest in creating colorful, vibrant art, though they are not collaborators with each other. Graciela Hasper works with acrylics on canvas to create wall art, and Marta Chilindron uses colored, transparent acrylic to build flexible sculptures. A 2014 piece (Hasper doesn't title her art) has cascading, transparent planes of different colors, some square, some rectangular, along with cubes and rectangles. It has enormous power and energy, and seems orderly as well as chaotic. Another 2014 work has a variety of transparent colored squares, with those at the upper level smaller, conveying the impression that the squares are hurtling toward the viewer. The sensation of movement is vivid, and the energy palpable. Chilindron's Orange Circle 12 is composed of ten orange, transparent acrylic elements of various shapes hinged together and placed on the floor. The result is highly original, a novel architectural shape, like an alien's calling card. My favorite among Chilindron's works is also monochromatic, Spiral 7. The transparent blue elements are each the same size, so it can collapse into quite a small space, but it's shown here partly "unfurled," creating a sense of growth and energy. If it were fully opened, who knows what miracles might occur. Cube 12 Multicolor is 12"x12"x12", but can expand to an enormous width as desired; there were too many panels to count. 9 Trapezoids has transparent panels of various colors. Their rich variety suggests adventure and drama, with the purple panel promising passion — a full life. Through August 30. 1606 West Alabama, 713-529-1313, sicardi.com. — JJT
"Martin Durazo: Territory & Owen Drysdale: Plinth" Martin Durazo paints large — Empire is 60"x48" — and uses pink, blue, white and yellow to create variety. There are black lines that add emphasis, and blue and white circles, seemingly stenciled, that add another element. The result is colorful but cold. Territory is even larger, with some of the same colors, but with purple oblongs to shape its composition. Castle has a dominant yellow-green object bottom center, balanced by a much smaller red bar at center top. The bottom figure is ambiguous — it echoes the shape of a Niki de Saint Phalle Nana. I liked Trance III, with a vertical large blue oblong at upper right, two red-magenta horizontal stripes to add energy, and two yellow-green additions. The blue launches us into the painting, the red leads us on and the yellow-green seduces. Geyser omitted vivid colors and settled for black and gray and white, and blue for the water; it has energy and mystery. Owen Drysdale is a subtle artist, offering up visual haikus that suggest rather than illustrate. I liked 1br/1bath, oil on panel, bluish-black, pale orange and a few other pastels to boot. Leaden Prospects, paradoxically, has an airy, fluid aura. Embankment 2 suggests that the color splashes may be a window into something — perhaps the soul. His smaller paintings, 12"x9", are more successful because of their limited size, since the colors here control their environment. On this scale, the ideas seem more fully developed. Through August 30. Barbara Davis Gallery, 4411 Montrose, 713-520-9200, barbaradavisgallery.com. — JJT
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