Capsule Art Reviews: "Cats, Bunnies, and The Surface Value of It All," "Colony Collapse," "Eric Fischl: Cast & Drawn," "Janice Jakielski: Constructing Solitude," "Jonathan Leach: Time Does Not Exist Here" "Territorial Pissings"

"Cats, Bunnies, and The Surface Value of It All" Fresh Arts' latest exhibition wants to let you know right off the bat that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Titled "Cats, Bunnies, and The Surface Value of It All," the two-person show is just what it sounds like — a lighthearted look at art that prominently features cats and bunnies and doesn't get much deeper than that. But just because it is what it is doesn't mean it isn't any good. Au contraire. Lynn Lane's photographs and Melanie Loew's paintings are well-crafted pieces that are enjoyable to behold and examine. Both artists present a portfolio edited down to their respective animals. Lane is on the feline side. He presents 21 black-and-white photography portraits — giclée prints on 100 percent cotton rag archival paper — set against a fantastic bold pink wall. The portraits are of Lane's friends — a motley crew of choreographers, dancers, musicians, tattoo artists, body piercers, DJs, lawyers, cops and more that includes a few prominent people in the Houston arts scene — all holding his cat, Orange Cat. Orange Cat proves to be quite the versatile model; he never holds the same pose twice, and comically squirms and cuddles from one photo to the next. Lane's human models are unique in their own right, too. Once he lets them cut loose with a cat, he captures each person's presence in natural, flattering photos. Most of the subjects are smiling, if not laughing, and seem to be having a genuinely good time. Loew's work is also composed of portraits of people holding animals. But rather than photography, Loew works in paint on paper. She also trades cats for bunnies. Each bunny throughout her seven works is different, too. If you were an expert in this type of thing, you would be able to distinguish breeds; that's how exact her painting is. Compared to Lane's works, Loew's side of the gallery has more of an edge and is weirder. Each person is set against a unique wallpaper pattern, and both animal and human seem to disappear into this flat background. They are all head and limbs but no body; Loew edits out whole torsos. This subtraction, combined with the pallor of the subjects, gives the paintings an eerie, ghostly sense, but it works. The focus is on the pleasant faces and rabbits before you. In such a simple conceit, both artists' works almost dare you not to like them (the bunny in Loew's aptly titled painting Precious is especially adorable). But you'll easily and gladly succumb to their charms — and craft. Through April 26. 2101 Winter St., Studio B11, 713-868-1839. — MD

"Colony Collapse" Nicola Parente has a way of getting your attention. Four years ago, it was with giant mushrooms made of peat moss that sprouted from Art League Houston's patio. The piece, a collaboration with Divya Murphy, was in response to a New York Times article that named Houston the worst recycler among 30 cities in the nation (mushrooms, you see, are natural recyclers). The Houston artist returns with another environmentally themed installation that is, to shamelessly use the pun, creating some buzz. In "Colony Collapse" at micro scope 1824, a boxed-in gallery space at Spring Street Studios, Parente lines the room with more than 2,700 (!) brown paper bags from ceiling to floor — a charming DIY beehive. Fittingly, there are no live bees in this makeshift hive, though the first thing you notice about "Colony Collapse" is the buzzing. It's incessant, and about the last thing you'd expect to hear inside the studio building. Parente has hooked you in. In addition to the sound of buzzing, a video projected onto one wall of the honeycomb captures a handful of bees at work — a memory of what once was. It's a potent message, the rest of the space notably, loudly empty. To further raise awareness to the issue of colony collapse, a pair of boards on the outside wall provide information on the crisis. Your interaction with the hive is disappointingly limited — as is the nature of the gallery, you can look into the space only through a window and a door. But you are invited to leave a comment on a yellow Post-it note and stick it to the gallery's door, in effect adding a new layer to the hive. Through May 31. 1824 Spring, 713-862-0082. — MD

"Eric Fischl: Cast & Drawn" There is great range in both subject matter and material in Eric Fischl's "Cast & Drawn" show at McClain Gallery. All figurative works, they convey bodies that are muscular, fat, ordinary and sensual done in bronze, glass, watercolor and pigment inks cast in resin. The impressive skill on display almost comes as no surprise, given that the art icon is famous for his seductive portrayals of the human body. But the 18 pieces in the show also present a rare opportunity to experience both Fischl's 2-D and his 3-D figurative work and witness how he creates elegant, active forms across multiple mediums. The sculptures are particularly elegant, portraying athletes and bodies in motion. The Dancer looks ready to pounce, all tense concentration on her tippy toes, while Swimmer at Rest looks as pensive as a Rodin. Tumbling Woman, Fischl's somewhat controversial homage to 9/11 victims, is referenced in several sculptures, including a piece in glass and another in bronze. The awkward, unnatural pose — the woman is on her back, her legs lifted and held together to her left side — is meant to evoke the bodies that leapt from the World Trade Center towers. It's a powerful, striking, vulnerable visual, particularly in bronze, even if you don't know the reference. Fischl's colorful resin paintings are a clear departure — if you didn't know any better, you'd think this was a group show. The beach bods depicted are a burnt orange tan, their posture relaxed as they strut around half-clothed or naked. They are completely unself-conscious. His watercolors are more sensual and evocative. Set against a white or splotched background, they are looser, freer depictions of the body and its contours, the subjects stretched out into impossible poses or joined together, indistinguishable from one to the next. A yellowish orange painting of a woman bent over backwards, her arm stretched out in line with her body and her hair flowing beneath her, is particularly breathtaking. Through May 11. 2242 Richmond, 713-520-9988. — MD

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Meredith Deliso
Contact: Meredith Deliso