Capsule Art Reviews: November 13, 2014

"Larry Bell: Three Decades of Art" There is a mystifying element to Larry Bell's paintings — distance seems to add further enchantment. Up too close, I felt I was missing the forest for the trees. Nicole Longnecker Gallery has wisely hung AAAAA98 at the furthest reach, so it dominates from afar. I liked it enormously, without being able to determine why. It has a gray fish at the top, colorful vertical slivers, definitely a three-dimensional feel and a perspective of depth. It reminded me of the 1939 New York World's Fair, and of an Oriental sedan chair, so I decided just to savor the mystery. R 26 has a silvery central rectangle, devoid of detail but still dominating. It seems artificial, inscrutable and soothing. AAAAA 78 has an interesting use of salmon accents, some representational clues, a central roll-up window shade, gray fabric at the right and bottom, and a glimpse of an alien sunrise or sunset. In MVD 278, Bell clearly indicates some garments, one a dominant black much like a rented graduation robe, on its back a large arrow pointing upward — signifying aspiration? There are some blues, some grayish browns, and the ambience has a joyful tingle, as though filled with expectation. Larry Bell was born in Chicago in 1938, and currently lives and works in Taos, New Mexico, along with keeping a studio in Venice, California. His works have been included in major museums in the United States and abroad, and he has received a number of important solo exhibitions — his work was included in the Getty Museum's 2012 review of "LA Art 1945 to 1980" This exhibition showcases recent works as well as works from the 1990s. Through November 26. 2625 Colquitt, 713-591-4997, longneckergallery.com. — JJT

"Mass and Void" The immediate impression on seeing the amazing watercolors by Christopher St. Leger is that this artist loves architecture, cities and watercolors, using his talents to create vistas of shimmering beauty. This is a large and impressive exhibition, so a viewer is immersed immediately, surrounded by cityscapes so enticing as to make choosing which to see first a challenging assignment. There's a remarkable feeling that St. Leger is sharing his heart as well as his artistry. In 140513 bullnose west, he used the blinding light of a midday sun to bleach a building almost white, while a shadow in the lower right provides welcome relief. There is a sense of such immediacy that I felt I could stand there and watch the shadow on the building move as the sun continued its westward path. Some of the watercolors stress humanity rather than architecture. In 140204 sargasso, St. Leger features the glistening bounce of rain on the sidewalk of a busy outdoor mall, including the distorted reflections. A walker in the foreground has one foot about to hit the wet pavement, and I felt that if I waited, I could hear the splash. In 140808 tinted, three clusters of especially tall office towers dominate the skyline. They dwarf the surrounding buildings, but are in turn dwarfed by the sky itself. In 130607 westhausen, St. Leger portrays residential living, low-rise apartment buildings nestling one against another. A similar approach, though more of a close-up, is seen in 130425 pasadeen, and the fascinating juxtaposition of buildings, sky and a strong accent color resonates with some of the strengths of cubism. A visitor is likely to leave with a smile. Through November 26. Hooks-Epstein Gallery, 2631 Colquitt, 713-522-0718, www.hooksepsteingalleries.com. — JJT

"Paradiso" Danny Rolph offers us a hint of the future to come, in nine major paintings, acrylic on canvas, completed this year or last. It is a utopian future, airy, bright, with open spaces, colorful, filled with vibrant energy. The exhibition might have been called "Dragster," as there are three paintings that reveal Rolph's fondness for high velocity. Dragster 5 may be the most powerful in the exhibition, dazzling with vivid colors. Luscious red lips reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe's entice at bottom left, suggesting sensuality or perhaps the reward for a victory; it is a delicious ferment. Dragster 2 is complex (they all are), and most directly suggestive of roads, leading to a vortex. In Dragster 4, two teal-colored flat planes are centrally located and dominate, giving the impression of floating in space. Paradiso 3 has a festival feeling, a holiday party with decorations strung on a line, lighthearted and gay. Paradiso 7 consists of two panels providing one image, an accelerating arrow leading left. We sense that something important lies ahead, but know not what it is; it's an enigma. Enterprise 18 has the most formed of Rolph's utopian visions, as though the whirligig had slowed and jelled into a civilization. Central here is a distinct image of a multicolored pyramid, and there are clear blue skies. The painting is cheerful and inviting, but is the pyramid a reminder that even Utopia will have its day and then be gone? Version consists of multiple panels, horizontal but for one image, the future to come, as yet unformed, challenging. Enterprise 15 is from a formed world, with an overhead fan, perhaps an office chair, and a large blue image, perhaps a ship carrying cargo and, yes, an American flag. Through November 15. Barbara Davis Gallery, 4411 Montrose, 713-520-9200, barbaradavisgallery.com. — JJT

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