It seems trite to say an artist's work is exciting -- how often have you heard that before? But that's the exact reaction when viewing Geoff Hippenstiel's new, large paintings at Devin Borden Gallery.
In his first solo show here since his well-received MFA show at the University of Houston in spring 2010, the abstract oil paintings are almost too big for the gallery to contain. They take up its main exhibition space, its storeroom, even its office, making for some nice, colorful scenery at two desks. The latter two rooms don't make for the best viewing situation -- there are too many distractions without the simplicity of just a white wall -- but the best works are in the front room, anyway.
Every single one of these works is untitled -- even the show is simply called "New Paintings" -- but they're not without their own backstories. In short, the Houston artist starts off with one central image -- Monet's lilies, Cézanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire, even, randomly, a Goya-shaped awards statue -- and paints. He paints until the original inspiration is barely recognizable, though traces of it remain beneath the surface. As a result, the paintings feel familiar, and yet completely new.
Whether it's the starting image or the artist's obsessive painting over it, the same material is always used -- oil paint -- but in an almost meta moment, Hippenstiel's viscous patches of metallic paint start to take over the work. The paint itself -- its color and its thickness -- becomes the subject, squeezing out the lilies or covering the pale gold of the Goya head in a bright green. In another painting, the original image is indiscernible, covered almost entirely in a thick blanket of shiny silver, erasing whatever came first. Experiencing the effacing quality of paint in this context is simple, but still exciting and completely alluring. The paint wins.
"New Paintings" by Geoff Hippenstiel at Devin Borden Gallery, 3917 Main, now through March 13. For more info, call 713-529-2700 or visit the gallery's website.
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