Capsule Art Reviews: October 23, 2014

"Mokha Laget: Chromatic Constructs" Mokha Laget has broken free of "the tyranny of the rectangle," a straitjacket that many artists seem condemned to wear. Her shapes are her own, and they are refreshingly different. Laget's work has elements of architecture; while the paintings are two-dimensional, the images portray boxes, pathways, edifices that entice one to enter to explore their interiors — would that you could — and combinations that suggest mazes. Laget's work has vivid, striking colors, including an effective use of black, that seem to jostle each other — perhaps fighting for territory? The contrasts delight and the combinations entertain. She uses clay-based pigments on canvas, with the central theme of her work that each color field is an entity to itself — there is no blending, no softening, no blurring, just a color demanding its place in the sun. Ponte Vecchio, my favorite, has two strong vertical elements, the right one more multicolored than the left, joined at the middle by two irregular constructs. The title suggests a bridge, but it might just as easily be an abstract winged angel. Sahel is simpler, an elongated strip folded at the top and bottom, orange, yellow and purple; it has energy, style and even wit. The shapes in Butte do suggest a mountain rise, but the sharp edges suggest even more a protective castle wall for the habitat of a superior alien species, or perhaps a monolith left behind when they departed. Because of their striking, accentuated and framed colors and their wit, these pieces seem to be aperitifs rather than dinner. They whet the appetite, supply a delightful moment and merit careful scrutiny, and would serve admirably to brighten a room, or even a life. Through November 1. Sonja Roesch Gallery, 2309 Caroline, 713-659-5424, gallerysonjaroesch. — 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

"Pepe Mar: Parco Dei Mostri" The Miami-based artist Pepe Mar has created a highly personal exhibition, a trip down memory lane. It has three elements: a large, richly textured window-box collage; a wall-size bookcase filled with objects that fascinate Mar, some of which he made and some of which are found art; and, surprisingly, four framed shirts that Mar has worn, three by Versace. The title of the exhibition refers to the "Park of Monsters," a 16th-century outdoor sculpture "garden" in Bomarzo in northern Italy composed of many larger-than-life-size sculptures, including one of Hannibal's elephants mangling a Roman soldier. That the Parco dei Mostri left a strong impression on Mar is no surprise, since it also captured the imaginations of Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dalí. Mar, like the park of Bomarzo, intends not to please but to astonish. I was certainly astonished to see those four shirts that Mar had worn included as such a major part of the exhibition; they are beautifully framed and displayed. The bookcase is worth considerable study — it reveals a keen eye for found art, and a rich sense of humor. There are scores of objects, so leave time to savor them. The major work is The Cabinet of Dr. Mar — here in a shadow-box collage is where some of Mar's "monsters" emerge to do their work, but the art here is so complex as to defy description. Lest one be overwhelmed by the extraordinary detail, I suggest concentrating first on one section, then perhaps on another, to get a feel for the artist's intention. Mar gives a lot of himself here, and requires a lot from his audience as well. This exhibition reveals a powerful artist with a far-ranging sensibility. Through October 25. DiverseWorks — Midtown, 4102 Fannin,  713-223-8346, diverseworks.org. — JJT

"Scribble Morphings" The scribbles over these acrylic-on-canvas paintings document that H.J. Bott has a sense of humor and refuses to take himself too solemnly, though this in no way undermines his seriousness as an artist. There were several paintings that I thought stood alone as completed works and the scribbles detracted, and at least one where the scribble seemed necessary for completeness. Matching Your Drapes employs blue and brown colors in a directly cubistic design, and the scribble seemed to me to interrupt a most successful arrangement. Mobius Quatro, on the other hand, would look unfinished without the scribble. In Free Zones, the scribble is essential to create the impression of a stained-glass window. And in NARRATIVE: Generals, Decorated, the scribble serves a wonderful though deliberately ambiguous purpose — it may be either an endorsement of the military battle ribbons or a cancellation of them, all against a background showing the earth as viewed from space. The largest and most complex painting is a double panel, tilted at an angle, with checkerboards and yin and yang images. There is a sense of planning and of architecture, and the scribble here is probably essential to getting us past the large center of subdued colors. In OH-GEE, the scribble is dominated by an in-your-face black background and large greenish shapes, each resembling a comma. These paintings are all recent, but the gallery has included one large one, 66" by 50", done in 2000, Landscape Rhetoric, which is stunning in its warmth, grace and subtlety. There appears to be a transparent fabric curtain, shielding but not impeding the view of what lies within, unknown but holy. Through November 15. Anya Tish Gallery, 4411 Montrose, 713-524-2299, anyatishgallery.com. — JJT

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