Capsule Reviews

"Brooke Stroud: New Drawings" and "Michael Petry: In the Garden of Eden" There are two new exhibitions at Devin Borden Hiram Butler Gallery -- one is subtle, the other subtly subversive. Brooke Stroud's colored pencil drawings on gray cardboard have an Agnes Martin vibe to them. The cardboard looks like the kind of cheap stuff that backs a notepad, but Stroud makes it precious with careful horizontal lines of luminous color that cluster together and then spread out. Each piece is monochromatic, and the colors with more contrast work the best. In the main gallery, Michael Petry's "In the Garden of Eden" presents giant slabs of wood hanging from the ceiling, grouped like trees in a forest. They are cross-sections of various trees, with the bark edges intact. The trees -- lime, yew, chestnut -- are found in England, where the El Paso-born artist lives and works. With its beautiful, oiled surfaces, the wood has a low-key organic beauty, which is what the piece seems to be about -- until you notice the holes. A jar lid-size hole has been drilled into each plank. You could peer from one hole through to the others, but the holes aren't at eye height. The smooth, sanded and splinter-free openings are, ahem, at crotch height...Suddenly, the exhibition's title takes on a whole new meaning. Through March 10. 4520 Blossom, 713-863-7097.

"Dirk Rathke: Room Drawing for Houston and Wall Objects" Dirk Rathke's monochromatic paintings on shaped canvases call to mind the work of Ellsworth Kelly. While Rathke's canvases aren't quite in the same league as Kelly's, they do have their own quirk: they're three-dimensional -- skewed from side to side, with surfaces that are concave, convex or lopped off at odd angles. He builds up his thick, smooth layers of pigment on the nubby surface of the canvas using colors like traffic orange or luminous, acidy yellow. For most of the pieces, the canvas is stretched over solid wooden forms rather than a stretcher framework. Rathke could more easily paint on the forms themselves, but using a traditional painting surface like canvas is part of his point. He leaves the sides of the canvases raw, emphasizing the material. The three-dimensional surfaces and the layer of paint flicker between painting and sculpture. Through February 24. Gallery Sonja Roesch, 2309 Caroline, 713-659-5424.

"The Flat File: Works on Paper and Video" Tucked in the back gallery at Rudolph Projects/ArtScan Gallery is a tiny DVD player screening Federico Solmi's animated video King Kong and the End of the World (2005). With an expressive and sketchy cartoon style and an evocative soundtrack by his wife Jennifer, Solmi presents his own goofy take on a King Kong movie. In his video, King Kong "loves the art world" by smashing the Guggenheim Museum into Gagosian Gallery. The giant ape has lunch on Wall Street, eating stockbrokers -- and puking them up. He battles the Statue of Liberty. He climbs the Empire State Building and pees all over the city. Then the world ends, and God tells Solmi and his wife Jennifer to repopulate it. The video is supremely silly and well done; Solmi revels in his crackpot brand of surreality. It took 1,100 drawings for him to create the video, with animation by Russell Lowe. Several whiteout-encrusted examples of the drawings are also on view. Through February 10. 1836 Richmond, 713-807-1836.

"Kim Squaglia" Kim Squaglia makes paintings that are so beautifully and sleekly crafted, they feel like design objects. She uses fabulous colors: the palest of sage greens, hot magentas, chocolaty browns, dusty pinks, a 1950's turquoise...Her looping lines, pours of color and carefully delineated biomorphically abstract forms float in and over thick, perfect layers of resin. The resin creates glossy and clear or matte and translucent strata, adding physical and visual depth to the artist's imagery. But the ultimate kicker is that while Squaglia's paintings have the visual and tactile appeal of ultra high-end designer objects, their quirky imagery keeps them firmly in the realm of fine art. Through February 4 at Finesilver Gallery, 3913 Main, 713-524-3733.

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer