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Capsule Art Reviews: July 10, 2014

"The American Landscape" at Meredith Long & Company features the work of Larry Horowitz, but the paintings by William Anzalone capture the imagination as well, and a number of artists in this group show stand out with a single painting each. Michael Coleman's Sneaky Approach is a fascinating tableau in which a fox hides behind some shrubbery near a river stream while two birds (plovers?) wade upstream, creating a sense of the suspense before the pounce. The light on vegetation holds the eye, adding a calmness that is vividness itself. Al Barnes's Ghosting presents a two-masted sailboat towing a small barge while seagulls circle overhead. Trees and an interesting sky complete the maritime picture. William Anzalone's In and Out of Clouds dominates the gallery with its striking blue and orange sky; a small, distant barn; and wild grass in the foreground, ample but unobtrusive. The view is seen from a window, but, wait, is it? There is vegetation in front of the window, as well as past it, a wisp of surrealism. Anzalone foregoes subtlety in Fallen, where a huge tree has been toppled, filling the space, supplemented with purple vegetation under a pale-orange sky. The branches still threaten, reaching out like alien tentacles. Larry Horowitz has a painting that's almost a seascape, as a pale-purple sky is reflected in the water, balanced by humans on a small beach, green elsewhere, with a distant building and a small sailboat adding a spark of variety. The contrast between the dominant sky and the insignificant land is intriguing, and the effect of the openness of the center suggests endless possibilities. The work indicates the hand of a master painter. Through July 24. 2323 San Felipe, 713-523-6671, meredithlonggallery.com. — JJT

"Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris" Charles Marville was an early and prolific photographer of old Paris, commissioned to record the before, during and after of Emperor Napoleon III's radical transformation that remade a medieval city into the first modern one. But these aren't the rose-tinted images of the City of Light we've come to love. Working from the 1850s to the 1870s, Marville made 425 often haunting images of a city about to be, and in the process of being, ripped apart to create the honey-hued boulevards we love today. The streets he shows us are eerily devoid of people. This is partly a result of the technical limitations of early photography — long exposure times meant that people in motion became only ghostly smudges. But the people weren't the point. In fact, the lives lived in those streets were irrelevant — obstacles to be displaced or crushed as the Baron Haussmann carried out the Emperor's orders to re-create Paris as his modern stage for imperial grandeur. We know what Paris would become, but the few people who stand stark still in these photos didn't. The Paris they knew was about to be destroyed, and that tension gives the photos much of their power. Marville didn't often present his photographs as art. For him, photography was a livelihood. But he was an artist to the core, and the art crept in. Through September 14. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300, mfah.org. — RT

"Concealed Revealed" Hunter Gather Project is off the beaten track, ensconced on Gulfton Road just west of 610. It provides an opportunity for emerging artists to present work that may be experimental. The current exhibition, "Concealed Revealed," shows the work of three artists: Cathie Kayser, Sandria Hu and Sandra York. I liked Kayser's I Just Find a Line and Follow It, minimalist but rewarding, a collection of 18 line drawings — each about 8"x10" — framed as one work. The choices of line drawings are so rich that the eye hardly knows where to travel. Hu's work is more colorful and has a large element of "assemblage," as she incorporates different textures and materials, some intentionally discordant. Her Clay and Smoke 36 uses drab brown as its primary color, a sign of artistic courage, but it remains enticing since splashes of color enliven the work — even the ample use of white is welcome against this background. Usually abstract, in Budapest #8, Hu provides representational dark tree branches that dominate and intrigue. York's artist statement reads in part: "Whimsical lines and unrecognizable objects are the surprises. They remind us that it takes trust to face the unknown — life's mysteries." York ensures that the mysteries are not revealed, since she paints over more clearly defined objects or people to mask them, giving her art a dreamlike quality. Her quiet Mid-Century Still Life includes large but very shadowy sketched figures, what looks like a high chair for a child, some bowls for a still life on a sketchy shelf, and what I took to be a primitive horse, much like a cave drawing, in the background. Through August 23. 5320 Gulfton, Suite 15, 713-664-3302. — JJT

"Funnel Tunnel" Clunky, streaked wood and wiry metal are the last things one would consider using to celebrate Art League Houston and the colorful Montrose neighborhood that surrounds it. Then again, talent is as talent does, and bare-bones as they may be, Patrick Renner's pieces are feats of size and color. Bounded Operator (2012) is a wall of windows glued together and filled with sand, rock and gravel, mingled with pieces of wood splashed in tie-dye, exchanging its windowpane aesthetic for a swirling metal one. The rainbow brightness of Wooddauber (2012) is one of many rainbow-colored chunks of wood from Renner's "Vestigial Structures" show exhibited last year at Avis Frank Gallery. The two pieces are combined to create "Funnel Tunnel," a metal-on-wood masterpiece so big that Art League publicly called on volunteers to help paint the wooden strips in the weeks before its opening. Before then, Renner could be seen blowtorching metal pieces together to create a wiry foundation for the wooden strips to attach to. It would, however, be inaccurate to describe "Funnel Tunnel" as skeletal. While other Renner pieces may come off as hollow, the wood and metal in "Funnel Tunnel" work together to create an artwork representative of the inclusive nature of the area around it. Those wooden strips? Painted in the hues of the rainbow, they very accurately represent the diverse people, businesses and culture of Montrose. The metal? Permanently melded together to hold the rainbow strips of wood, it represents the collectivity of this community. These materials create a 180-foot civic art sculpture seen whirling down the center of Montrose Boulevard. "Funnel Tunnel" will be on display in front of Art League Houston for the next nine months. 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530. — AO

"Jim Nolan: Apropos of Nothing" The name Art Palace may suggest royalty, but its current exhibition is deliberately lowbrow. Jim Nolan loves plastic flowers, and makes good use of them in this, his second solo show at Art Palace. Nolan can paint beautifully — see his Flower Portrait Pink — but even here his demon imp has added, unobtrusively, the bar-code tag. Very in-your-face is his ABV#4 — w/ Bottle, as colorful and attractive large dots clustered together are pierced by an actual three-dimensional beer bottle, ugly indeed, and that is its point — Nolan's irreverence is a send-up of an art world that sometimes can take itself too seriously. There's a refreshing cheerfulness about Nolan's art. His ABV# — Tight Cluster again has a cluster of large dots, in pale colors, and its simplicity is endearing, interesting and involving. The most ambitious work is My New Flag, composed of two large circles on the wall and on the floor a black backing for a round glass table top, resting on socks; I have absolutely no idea what it means — that is probably Nolan's point. Through July 11. 3913 Main, 281-501-2964, artpalacegallery.com. — JJT

"Lorena Morales: The Space Within" The intimate Galeria Regina has an unusual exhibition, "The Space Within," consisting of the visual art of Venezuela-born Lorena Morales, with each work accompanied by a poem by Houston's own Gerald Cedillo. Morales uses vivid colors on Plexiglas, often in geometric patterns, to create interest and tension. Featured here are a series of works with stripes in varying colors, and also a series that center on circles to capture the eye. The stripes are often interwoven, and the colors of the stripes can either contrast or segue into related tones. Pieces in the circles series are called "Chromospheres" — they tend to dominate the gallery space, as their vividness and concentric energy provide commanding power. There is a larger, attractive painting, Summer Sun, with orange and blue circles on embossed paper, that stands out because of its open, uncluttered space. Morales invited Cedillo to create poems inspired by her art. The result is interesting indeed, as Cedillo has a gift for expression and the capacity to view the world with original insights, poetically expressed with sincerity and quiet charm. Excerpted lines may illustrate this talent. For Summer Sun: "I was a cloudburst / full of grandfather clocks." Color Weave #2, mostly green and gray stripes: "Its longing stays / like salt on the tongue." For Color Weave #5, orange, red, magenta and purple stripes: "Don't stand on the world's chest." For the blue and green circled Chromospheres, he wrote: "...the fairy-tale land / of lost speech." Cedillo is from Rosenberg, and is an organizer for Houston's Word Around Town poetry tours. This is the fourth solo exhibition of Morales in the U.S., and last year she had an individual exhibition in Dresden, Germany. Through July 20. 1716 Richmond, 713-523-2524, www.galeriaregina.com. — JJT

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"Nancy Ellison Altered Egos" The retrospective exhibition of the photographer Nancy Ellison is about celebrities, but not just any celebrities — they include many of the towering, iconic figures of 20th-century film art. Ellison created the memorable 1982 photograph of Jack Nicholson perched alone in the middle of Galveston Bay, with her wading into the water to get it. The photograph of the virtuosic actor Burgess Meredith captures Meredith's bright-eyed intensity and the benevolence of his persona, two of his personal trademarks. The 1990 photo of Sharon Stone has her leaning next to a mirror placed on an easel, so that her reflection appears to be a second portrait. Ellison caught Sting emerging from the surf at Malibu, his wet suit half off, in a striking photograph that captures his lean sensuality. There are six large and dynamic photographs of Keith Roberts, principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, who has worked extensively on Broadway. Ellison can also use shadows to good effect — sometimes hauntingly. She shot Arnold Schwarzenegger on the set of Total Recall in Mexico City, half in shadow, very suitable for a film where little is as it seems. Houston-born Patrick Swayze is captured by Ellison in a remarkable image that reveals his physical charisma and blue-collar appeal. Part of the charm of this exhibition is the trip down memory lane, since we are reminded of the icons who have left us, as well as those still here, such as the eternally vital Mick Jagger, Dustin Hoffman, Sean Penn, Anjelica Houston and many others. This is a large exhibition, varied and universally interesting, and one that will richly reward the viewer who is able to spend considerable time with it. Through August 29. Decorative Center Houston, 5120 Woodway, 713-961-9292. — JJT

"The Texas Aesthetic VII: Minding the Texas Tradition" William Reaves Fine Art specializes in Texas artists who are influenced by and carry on the traditional portrayal of Texas landscapes. This is the seventh year of an annual group show, with 16 such artists exhibiting. One striking work by Laura Lewis is Boogie Woogie Blues — Cotton Harvest, featuring a vibrant sunset with the foreground filled with thousands of cotton bolls, and light and shadow playing on the plants tinged with richly rewarding blues. Jon Flaming's Abandoned Texaco, West Texas conveys a gentle sense of loss as the hustling modern world leaves behind a small-town single gas pump, once valued, now lonely and isolated. Jeri Salter's Alley View shows a dirt road and the backs of commercial buildings, as old-fashioned telephone poles lead one's eye into the drab distance, while red paint on some of the buildings provides relief from the grayness. Houston artist Erik Sproghe's Ruminations provides rolling hills in the background, reclining cattle on a field in the foreground and the skeletal head of a steer nailed to a fencepost, warning us of some possible calamity. William Montgomery's Long Billed Curlew fascinates with a finely detailed portrait of a placid curlew in the foreground and an oil refinery in the distance, posing the contrast between nature and development. Randy Bacon gives us Gonzalez, a portrait of a red-brick building of unusual proportions and details. It is aware that its chimneys are beautiful, its entrance welcoming, its balcony graceful and its sturdy elegance admirable. Mary Baxter is showing an intriguing work, Contrabando, depicting a waterway that has dried up, with orange-red buildings on distant hills. It becomes difficult to lament the drought when it can create such beauty. Through July 12. 2313 Brun, 713-521-7500, www.reavesart.com. — JJT

"Tradition and Translation: Extension of Nature" Two Japanese artists share an exhibition of consummate subtlety and artistry. Mari Omori's work embodies the fragile sensitivity of the female principle. Masaru Takiguchi's sculptures embody the strength and virility of the male principle. Omori's fragile works, however, are also powerful, and Takiguchi's tough-minded sculptures show a sensitivity that is remarkable. Omori uses tea bags, or tea bag packaging, as her medium, though the casual viewer wouldn't know it. Her Sun Dial is a richly textured but quiet extravaganza with a spiraling effect, the outer edges seemingly serrated. It is composed entirely of hundreds of the envelopes that tea bags come in. In Omori's vessel iii, a beehive is enclosed in a dark brown wrap, open but tied together, with the ties echoing antennae, ominous and threatening. A companion piece, vessel ii, is pale, almost white, and filled with empty tea bags arrayed to create a sense of fluffiness. The result is a fascinating contrast as a bonus. Takiguchi works in wood, stone and metal, creating abstract sculptures that provide no narrative but rely instead on graceful curves and richness of materials to enchant the viewer. Be sure to spend time with Memory of Butterfly, in richly veined walnut, and marvel at how hardwood can be transformed into soft, sprightly curves. Wind and Rain is made from pine, as individually carved wood segments are arrayed to create a spiral staircase — powerful, evocative and haunting. In stone, Takiguchi uses Tennessee marble for The Wave and Spring Haze, and Brazilian black granite for his Night Ocean, pairing a glossy exterior with a textured interior. The artwork is presented by Arts Brookfield in cooperation with Hooks-Epstein Galleries, Inc. Through July 30. Total Plaza, Lobby Level, 1201 Louisiana, 713-336-2280. — JJT

"Trenton Doyle Hancock: Skin and Bones, 20 Years of Drawing" Trenton Doyle Hancock is being given a full-scale retrospective at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Written large on one wall is the informing theme: "He had a hunger that was telling him to draw it." And so he has, with verve and original style, a gift for storytelling and a keen narrative sense. There is an amusing portrait of a character relieving himself titled Torpedo Boy Peez. The stream emanating is red, green-yellow and purple — seldom have accent colors been used more dramatically. There is a striking narrative in ten panels of Torpedo Boy conning alien creatures into lending him their tofu chips, which he then uses to solicit, successfully, a prostitute. The tone is delightfully amoral — this is not a world where judgments about others are made. There is a large, richly detailed mural titled Vegans Have Fun that has orgiastic elements, and a tone that seems to invite the viewer to join the party. Hancock has even created wallpaper with detailed writing and an occasional illustration that repeats itself as wallpaper does. Film is a new medium for Hancock — he has created an ever-morphing head that's engrossing and seems able to eat itself. There is wit here as well as talent. This is a carnival that one enters to be entertained, and is. But there is a power, even a majesty, in the certainty of Hancock's vision that is authoritative and lets us know in no uncertain terms that he has seen the future — and here it is. Through August 3. 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250, camh.org. — JJT

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