A new show at McClain Gallery tackles the subject of outer space, but don't expect on-the-nose pieces that reference the planets or extraterrestrials.
"Celestial" features only eight works -- considerably fewer than you'd expect from a show at the gallery -- but it's not short on content. There's plenty to take in thanks to the immense and engaging works by contemporary greats.
The show starts off appropriately with a strange assemblage by Robert Rauschenberg titled Shuttle Buttle/ROCI USA (Wax Fire Works). On reflective steel, the artist paints and transfers the double-image of a space shuttle, as well as places a found wheelbarrow. It's blast-off.
You go from one massive piece to the next with James Rosenquist's centerpiece Television or the Cat's Cradle Supports Electronic Picture taking up the main wall all on its own. The 20-foot wide horizontal canvas depicts a dark sky filled with stars, purple flowers, a splintered face and a multicolored lattice pattern. It's a dynamic piece, full of energy and life, however surreal.
From there, the show consists primarily of reflective sculptural objects that play with light, color and space. There's Stephen Dean's "Double Ladder," a pretty ladder made out of dichroic glass and aluminum that looks like a prism.
Larry Bell's glass works aren't so light-hearted. A gray cube and a dark shadow box are small and contained, but play with your sense of space. Look at the cube from one angle and you see yourself looking back at you; look at it from another and you see nothing, just the gray cube.
There's a jarring jolt of color with Anish Kappor's untitled work, which creates a vortex out of a stocking. The blood-red color helps give off an eerie vibe to an already eerie concept.
These works and more in "Celestial" aren't in-your-face. Rather, they encourage you to let your imagination run wild as you contemplate the unknown, whether you're taking in the disjointed imagery of Rauschenberg and Rosenquist or getting lost in the simple, elegant glass work of Bell.
"Celestial" at McClain Gallery, 2242 Richmond Avenue, runs now through July 3. For more information, call 713-520-9988 or visit www.mcclaingallery.com.