Capsule Art Reviews: October 9, 2014

"Fools Gold: Katy Heinlein & Alika Herreshoff" Strong colors deliver the messages of two artists, one using fabric sculptures and the other employing acrylic on canvas. Katy Heinlein's sculpture Workaround is deceptively simple. Its shape is interesting, defying familiar categorization. It's covered in green fabric, with a gold fabric strip covering part of the top and running down one side and extending onto the floor, a bit like a serpent seeking to exit the forest. Habit at first looks like a yellow paper clip, but the "clip" itself turns out to be a strip of fabric. A small blue loop is attached to the top of the clip and supports a much larger black fabric of indeterminate shape that rests on the floor, with gray edging. The shape could be that of a snail, or of a trained seal stretching itself for a performance; it is wonderful. Fob has three orange strips, with backing of vivid purple and small tails of gray. Its strength is in its vivid "in-your-face" colors. Alika Herreshoff's Fool's Gold has the shape of a squat apple, with interesting colors, intense violet at the top, yellow in the center and brown at the bottom, and some varied minor edging at the bottom sides. It seems passive, quiet, but still has energy — perhaps it's a bomb biding its time, not an apple after all. I liked Sweet Nothings a lot. Its colors are blue and rose, and Herreshoff here provides a sense of perspective. Snail's Pace uses a central deep purple to good effect, with strong images at top and bottom. Sore Thumb has a three-dimensional optical illusion that is interesting, but otherwise the work seems bland. Through October 18. Art Palace, 3913 Main, 281-501-2964, artpalacegallery.com. — JJT

"Kelley Devine: Unwhole" The Nicole Longnecker Gallery offers a panoply of cyborgs, part human, part machine. That the human element here is a body fragment, not a complete body, perhaps makes it all the more ominous. And yet enticing, for these sculptures have their own grace and elegance. Many of the machine parts are simply bicycle chains, but they take on a power of their own, portraying the gripping uncertainty of the unknown. Connected and Disengaged has a hand and a forearm, and branches like tendrils, mounted on a few books, one of which is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. It's the only one that seems tentative, exploring, in transition, perhaps growing. The others are quite definite. Son Beau Sport has part of a left torso and leg, and is very powerful, even brutal. Unattached has an appealing irregularity, slender at the bottom and tapering wider toward the top. It has of a fragment of a left leg that's wide enough at its top to include a belly button; it's wonderful. Devine has a softer side as well, and uses strips of fabrics to suggest this. Warm Heart has bronze-colored shoulders from which hang multicolored inch-wide fabric strips of varying lengths. One of Devine's themes is that women and their sensuality strongly attract, but may pose danger as well. Resolute has fragments of female breasts, but sharp nails protrude from the underside. Happy Hour is dark bronze, a left hand, with shards of broken glass sticking out from the rear; women are not the only danger in the hunt for fulfillment. Olivia is quite different in texture: There's a miniature suitcase, as though the artist had been abandoned. A book is included, titled Women in Love. It is fascinating. Through October 18. 2625 Colquitt, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., longnecker gallery.com. — JJT

"Living Lines" Arts Brookfield commissioned artist Lynn Randolph to create a 16-foot-long oil pastel mural, taking inspiration from some of Randolph's sketchbook drawings and incorporating words into a collage. Five of Randolph's paintings are also on exhibit — Eagle Pneuma, Soul SailMay Humble Weeping Bloom, Creation's Spoiled Darlings and Seraphim. In the mural, Rilke's words spoke most eloquently: "Every angel is terrifying. Still, though, alas, I invoke you, almost deadly birds of the soul." Some of the other quotations are platitudinous, and some are banal. The mural is intended as a sketchbook, and so the drawings are simplistic. Randolph's finished paintings show a mastery of craft but are inclined to oversimplify. I liked enormously Eagle Pneuma, with the sweep and scope of an archipelago enticing us with its natural beauty, but it is marred by an eagle centered much too precisely in the middle — whatever happened to composition? Arts Brookfield has given us several brilliant exhibitions this year; this is not one of them. For an artist whose mantra seems to be "The imagination!" Randolph refuses to let us use ours. Through October 9. Total Plaza Gallery, 1201 Louisiana (street-level lobby), 713-336-2280, artsbrookfield.com. — JJT

"Texas Before the Boom, 1850-1900: Selections from the Bobbie and John L. Nau Collection," on view at the Pearl Fincher Art Museum in Spring, consists of 40 or so paintings and drawings made in Texas or by Texans, mostly before 1900. Since most people, when they think of Texas art — especially the old stuff — probably think first of bluebonnets, cowboys and longhorn cattle, this show might just as aptly be titled Texas Art Before the Clichés. There's not a single bluebonnet or cowboy, and only one longhorn, in the show. The Nau Collection, encompassing all phases of earlier Texas art, is one of the largest and most comprehensive there is. Though only a fraction of the whole, the works included here are some of the earliest and rarest of their kind anywhere. Many of the works in this show speak to the vastness of Texas and to our Mexican heritage, and they're so early (for Texas) and so rare that there will be revelations for even the most seasoned viewer. Thomas Allen's Galveston Beach of 1877 is gorgeous — wedges of sand and water converging in the distance below a rectangle of sky, clouds echoing waves, no people, no buildings, reduced almost to a modernist study of geometry and subtle color. The most intriguing work is The Burning of the Heroes of the Alamo from 1903 by José Arpa y Perea. It's richly painted and complex, befitting Arpa's Spanish training: A painting of the burning Alamo surrounded by greenery sits before a female figure (is she a nun, an allegorical reference or something else?) holding an hourglass, or maybe an urn containing the ashes of the heroes. You'll leave it wanting to know more. Through December 13. 6815 Cypresswood Drive, Spring, 281-376-6322, pearlmfa.org. — RT

"Three Houses by Havel Ruck" and "Sexual Selection: Jo Ann Fleischhauer" Havel Ruck Projects is the name of the collaborative works of Dan Havel and Dean Ruck, who have created the installation "Three Houses" at Art League Houston, using lumber and other artifacts from three condemned houses to form a wooden structure both cryptic and evocative. It is a very large room-size bowl that can be entered from one side, so the viewer is surrounded by the structure. The lumber is placed horizontally, with large gaps that can be seen through. The sides of the bowl rise quite high, but at irregular heights, and the top is open. Some detailing is witty: One small panel door opens to reveal an ironing board. Once inside the bowl, a visitor is essentially in the midst of used scrap lumber, but the imagination of two talented artists has turned it into a shrine to honor the past. Havel and Ruck were named 2014 Artists of the Year by Art League Houston; the award will be made Friday, October 17 at a gala at Hotel ZaZa. They are best known for their 2005 Inversion, a strikingly original project in which the exterior of the former Art League Houston building, slated for demolition, was stripped and rebuilt to form a funnel connecting it to another building. Jo Ann Fleischhauer has created more than 100 very colorful parasols and installed them, inverted and only partially opened, in the trees adjoining the Art League Houston parking lot. Surprise is a large element in Fleischhauer's art, and this site-specific installation is quite unexpected, which is one of its several strengths. The parasols are beautiful in themselves and would brighten and enrich any place they appeared. Through November 1. 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530, artleaguehouston.org. — JJT

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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.