Capsule Art Reviews: January 22, 2015

"Conversations from the Satellites" There is an argument that the qualities attributed to schizophrenia — among them the inability to filter out irrelevant information — may be beneficial for creativity, allowing the individual to see connections others may not notice. J. Todd Allison, drawing inspiration from his father's struggle with that disease, has unleashed a futuristic, scientific and fantastic world at G Gallery. Harnessing the Lure features a serpentine creature; his wood-lined mouth offers up a knitting-hook tongue holding a hanger of seven polka-dotted chrysalis sacs. The background is a hazy, mysterious blue, obscuring hidden objects, flowers, ancient civilizations and faces. They were once great Dancers features a man wrapped in bandages formed of bent and twisted lumber, with the faint hint of pink suggesting a wound or injury. He bears the number 50, a remnant of dance competitions from days past. His dancing partner twirls in a beautifully tiered skirt of pliant lumber, with a stack of glass bell insulators serving as her head. Her semicircle arms of bent wood reach out, ready for the next dance. Darkness descends with Brotherly Love as our heroine appears in a scene with two truncated tree stumps. Floating above are not-so-innocent dartboards, poised like circular saw blades; one can almost smell the sawdust in the air. Equally riveting is Once a Harvester, which reveals a murderous ogre in butcher's apron — all fashioned with Allison's patterned, molded planks. Outer-space images are invoked in The Great Insulator as our intergalactic explorer sports a title belt in one hand, a glass diving bell held high. A rocket ship is poised to take off against a topographical backdrop of black and blue lakes, maps, monsters and creatures. Through January 30. 301 East 11th, 713-869-4770, — ST

"Masks, Monsters and Monoliths" It is a gift to gaze upon a discarded object and see the potential to transform it into something worthwhile; Archway Gallery is featuring two such visionaries in "Masks, Monsters and Monoliths." Steel sculptor Jim Adams uses acetylene torches to transform junk — gnarly, pitted and twisted — into monsters large and small, each with its own personality and demanding to be the center of attention. Painter Sherry Tseng Hill draws upon her architectural background to repurpose shipping boxes into ornate masks through intentional layering and adornment of paint, coiled paper, and shapes of triangles, flaps and rectangles. The result is an explosion of flamboyantly colorful masks, interwoven and interconnected through chains of paper, similar to the plumbing and electrical lines of a construction blueprint. The juxtaposition of the monochromatic steel sculptures with the colorful tribal masks makes for a pleasing and whimsical show. Don't miss Jim Adams's Monster Family, and be sure to bring the children. Dad leads the charge, Mom brings up the rear, with four monster children in between. Ranging in height from 28.5 to 42.5, the five pieces of steel sculpture can be arranged and rearranged; the characters are full of motion and life — some reticent, some dancing ahead, all hungry and talking — with broken, snaggled teeth, bulging eyeballs and long legs atop chicken feet. Tseng Hill's The Wall is a stunning, thought-provoking piece, with an angled gray column splitting the territory in half and protected by a coil of barbed wire. It is intricately decorated, with black rolled-up paper, meticulous lines of gold, red and blue at the top, and red, spiky triangles emanating from the un-crossable border. Through February 5. 2305 Dunlavy, 713-522-2409, — ST

"Monet and the Seine: Impressions of a River" As museum-goers, it seems, we can never get enough French Impressionist painting, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is giving us another opportunity to test that proposition with the exhibition "Monet and the Seine: Impressions of a River." The premise of the show is straightforward: Claude Monet (1840-1926), the artist who is perhaps the pre-eminent Impressionist, was born in Paris, through which flows the Seine; he grew up in the Normandy port city of Le Havre, at the mouth of the river; and for most of his life he lived and painted in one place or another along the river — including Giverny, made famous by his presence — taking the river and its banks as the subject of countless paintings, or at least the framework for them. This is the first exhibition to focus squarely at this aspect of his inspiration and output. It floats up and down the Seine through 50-plus beautiful paintings made over almost 40 years. Though in a literal sense Monet painted the river, he wasn't really interested in it as a river. Primarily he was striving to capture the effects of light and color as transformed by nature through days and seasons. There are masterpieces in the show — Argenteuil of 1875, with its two red boats front and center, and The Seine at Lavacourt of 1880, among them. And it reunites the largest number of paintings from the late great "Mornings on the Seine" series to have been brought together anywhere since first exhibited in 1898. Through February 1. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300, — RT

Texas Teapot Tournament "This ain't your Grandma's teapot." With apologies to the grammar police, I highly recommend visiting 18 Hands Gallery to see entries from the Clay Arts Museum and Educational Organization resembling space creatures, leopard-print boots, monkey heads or something straight out of Tim Burton's brain. A person could easily picture Hobbits from Middle-Earth drinking tea from Welsh ceramist Geoffrey Swindell's entry, tiny polka dots on a delicate miniature pot with minaret top. Imagine viewing farmlands from an airplane window but in hues of brown, orange and tan. Scott Dooley's Industrial Teapot was all angles and elbows, a mottled patchwork of yellow and olive tones, cobbled together with an Erector Set of clay. He had another piece in the show, smaller and more neon-green in tone, which strongly resembled a Rube Goldberg machine. Anthony Martin's Frozen in Time is an amazing fantasyland creation, a snail-pulled boxlike carriage teeming with frog, snake, worm, scorpion, gecko and spider. Almost grotesque in appearance, though oddly appealing, was Texas-based Steve Hilton's Crossbedding XIV. Resembling rosettes of fungi or rough, gnarled bark from a diseased tree, it seemed so natural that it could easily be overlooked in a forest setting. Meryl Roth's Ra-ta-tat Tea featured a lifelike woodpecker on a tree, and her Fit to a Tea leopard-print boot with laces and leopard top was ingenious; the cat's tail served as the handle. Even if you don't drink tea, please find the time to view these pieces, many of which were already sold on opening night and will no longer be available for viewing come February. Through January 31. 249 West 19th, 713-869-3099, — ST

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Randy Tibbits is an independent art writer and curator, specializing in the art history of Houston. He is a member of the Board of Directors of CASETA: Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art and the coordinator of HETAG: Houston Earlier Texas Art Group. He writes art exhibition reviews for Houston Press from time to time.
Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney