Capsule Art Reviews: "Cleve Gray: 1967 Silver Paintings," "CraftTexas 2012," "Debra Barrera: Kissing in Cars, Driving Alone," "[Houston Times Eight]," "Liz Ward: Cryosphere," "Structural Impermanence: New Works by Renée Lotenero"

"Cleve Gray: 1967 Silver Paintings" It was 1967. The late, great Cleve Gray was angry with his painting — a semi-Cubist composition of black and a bit of green — because it was "boring." So he threw a bucket of aluminum paint on it that he had lying around, likely from painting a tennis court fence. Luckily, it wasn't ruined, and it wasn't boring anymore. In fact, the resulting artwork, Silver Diver, became the starting point for a brand-new series by the abstract expressionist painter that experimented with metallic paint, from throwing the paint onto the canvas to using a compressor hose to manipulate the paint and make the splashes. A new exhibition up at McClain Gallery displays a year's worth of this experimentation, with Silver Diver as the centerpiece as well as six works that followed that year. Appropriately titled "1967 Silver Paintings," the show is a dense one for having just seven works. The large-scale color studies are explosive and radiant to behold, and each one is like a little mystery. How did Gray paint this? What color came first? What was his process? The metallic silver paint itself is also very textured, leaving imprints on the canvas like craters on the moon that you have to get right up close to see. One of the most engaging aspects of these 45-year-old paintings is the "mistakes" resulting from the process. Gray wasn't always sure how his acid-hued paint splashes and stains would work out on the canvas — in fact, they were driven by an "I wonder what would happen if I did...?" mentality. Splashing water onto the wet paint left those uneven lunar craters, and other works have rusty stains from the oxidation of the acrylic paint that look like halos of coffee stains around the gorgeous silver. Rather than being distracting, though, these elements only further illustrate this sense of free experimentation. Gray didn't interfere with the work by painting over and erasing these effects. He let the paint do its thing. Through December 1. 2242 Richmond. 713-520-9988. — MD

"CraftTexas 2012" This juried biennial show at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft purports to feature the best in Texas-made contemporary craft, and the 40 artists featured don't call that into question. Paula Gron is a basket weaver by nature, but uses her skills to concoct a wooden handle with found tree branches protruding creepily and chaotically from it like some alien takeover. For all its creepiness, it's not without a sense of humor — the piece is called My Toothbrush. Danny Kamerath also works in wood; for his compelling Table for Two he crafted two Barbie-size chairs and a table out of a stump of yaupon holly. The stump leans at all angles, pulling apart this quaint little set and making you feel incredibly uneasy in its unevenness. The dining-room table — a domestic constant — is coming apart. George Sacaris's Faux Bois Stumps features "stumps" of aluminum that sprout from the floor and have remnants of severed tree limbs jutting from their sides, but these highly polished pieces don't try too hard to fool you, which I like. They're too polished and shiny, for one, and they come in all sorts of unnatural colors, from rose to an Excel-logo green. In not resembling the stumps it so clearly does try to resemble, the piece makes you think about those differences even more. There's much more to see and like, from Diana Kersey's bonkers Bird Pot earthenware to Steve Hilton's epic wall installation, Tea for ? The latter is a clear winner in the show, even literally (Hilton, along with Gron and Sacaris, won jurors' prizes). It consists of families of teapots constructed out of stoneware. They sprout horizontally from the wall almost organically and resemble gnarls and knobs of wood, which in and of itself is a neat effect. But the teapots also seem to congregate like people do, even possessing distinct physical attributes. The longer you look at them, the more they seem to be reflections of ourselves. Through December 30. 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — MD

"Debra Barrera: Kissing in Cars, Driving Alone" The standout piece in Debra Barrera's debut show at Moody Gallery is a little red rearview mirror near the back on the gallery's wall. Titled For Dorothy Levitt, the found sculpture, taken from a 1986 Pontiac Firebird, is named after the inventor of the rearview mirror. Levitt was a "motorina," a pioneer of female motoring who advised women to carry a little handheld mirror when they drive so they can see what's behind them in her book The Woman and the Car — the first documented use of what became known as the rearview mirror. The sight of the mirror on its own is interesting — it's so rare to see it not attached to a car that, by itself, you can really consider its unique shape, form and angle. It's a neat little formal piece. The Houston artist's debut solo show is filled with a lot of strong material that references the automobile, a subject of Barrera's for the past year. The show includes graphite drawings of old car models as well as photographs from her "Salvage Yard Documentation Series," which was the catalyst for this show, its images depicting the left-behind remains from cars in auto salvage yards. There's a Precious Moments Bible, a pile of dirty balloons, a Mr. Goodbar pencil from 1986, a yellow air freshener, a tiara and Jay-Z's memoir, Decoded, all starkly photographed as if for some forensic file. Thanks to Barrera, they live on like timepieces. Other works toy with this idea of cars as time capsules. I'd rather have a Lamborghini than memories is a circular suitcase spray-painted Gallardo Blue, just like the luxury car. It's apparently filled with travel mementos of the artist — movie and airline tickets, museum guides, restaurant mints, a love letter and a diamond bracelet. This is the most romantic component of the rather romantically named show — the suitcase is filled with memories and history, a rearview mirror to the artist's past. Through November 21. 2815 Colquitt St., 713-526-9911. — MD

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Meredith Deliso
Contact: Meredith Deliso