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Christopher French Returns to Houston, Minus the Braille Paper

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For a while, Christopher French was known as the guy who made conceptual pieces out of Braille paper. He'd use the pages of Diderot and Goethe as his text, and make geometrical, textural works of circles that dared you to touch them.

Over the years, especially following a move five years ago from Houston to Long Island, French's abstract work has evolved, abandoning the trademark grid in favor of free-form shapes of flowers and other nature-inspired landscapes. In fact, there's nary an inch of Braille paper in an exhibition of new art at Devin Borden Gallery, called "Between Heaven and Home."

The six works on display are all united in materials -- oil and acrylic on linen -- as well as their healthy population of circles. Black, white, pink or yellow dots line abstract flowers, reference pools of ivy or, when connected by lines, resemble molecules or, to go significantly bigger, constellations, such as in the seemingly aptly titled piece "Between Heaven and Home." These sharp circles are comprised of oil mixed with different materials, including marble dust, making for subtle differences in texture and shine.

French's use of color seems to be simplified compared to previous works, but also bolder and more purposeful, such as in "Touchy-Feely," a work of black and white dots over a teal background. Gone are the isolated grids of circles in his earlier works, replaced by circles that are nearly on top of each other, coming together to form a new, amoeba-like shape.

There is a variation on his grid with "The Day Before Yesterday, The Day After Tomorrow." The spirographic curves of the painting resemble a flower, their 3-D effect making for the richest, fullest piece in the show. The black dots circling the edge of this grid are so black, they look like hole punches cutting into the universe, orbiting. The blue, red and yellow of this piece are particularly jarring when compared to the cohesive pastels of the other works. There is room to experiment yet.

"Christopher French: Between Heaven and Home" at Devin Borden Gallery, 3917 Main, now through May 8. For more information, call 713-529-2700 or visit the gallery's Web site.

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