Capsule Art Reviews: "Cleve Gray: 1967 Silver Paintings," "CraftTexas 2012," "[Houston Times Eight]," "Liz Ward: Cryosphere," "Structural Impermanence: New Works by Renée Lotenero," "Translucent Trajectories"

"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

"[Houston Times Eight]" The Station Museum of Contemporary Art recently kicked off an ambitious new series called "HX8" ("Houston Times Eight") wherein the museum curates a show of eight diverse, contemporary Houston artists. Fabio D'Aroma is like a modern-day Caravaggio. He presents a grotesque procession along all four walls. There are naked bodies with thin arms, knobby red elbows and knees, and distended stomachs that are engaged with curious symbolism. There's a peacock and a menorah in one painting, a watermelon, some rifles and a bag of charcoal in another. There's so much coded in there, and it's all done in such jaw-dropping detail, that it's all a bit confounding. Street artist Daniel Anguilu has left his telltale mark all over Midtown and brings his animal imagery inside for the museum show, painting an epic, abstract mural on a temporary wall constructed just for the exhibition to create separate, almost sacred spaces for each artist. Robert Pruitt's powerful portraits depict three strong, fully realized African-American women. Prince Varughese Thomas's conceptual works criticize the wars in the Middle East, representing the lives lost, both of civilians and soldiers, through white, ghostly pennies and names in charcoal, layered until the paper turns black. Lynn Randolph processes the death of her husband through ancient symbols of mortality — birds. Her grief is overwhelming and beautiful in the sheer amount of work she has created and the number of birds that fill the walls of her room. Floyd Newsum's distinct, naive style and dense collages are loaded with personal materials, from chalk to photographs and symbols of his family. Serena Lin Bush explores concepts of family and bonds between sisters and friends through a video installation. And Forrest Prince's works in wood and mirror are calls to "love" and "repent," though the most biting words go out to his fellow artists: "If the work you are doing isn't contributing to the restoration of peace on our Mother Earth, or the health and welfare of all the creatures on her, then you are wasting your life and everyone else's time." Amen. Through February 17. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900. — MD

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Meredith Deliso
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Abby Koenig
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