It's Not a Trick, It's an Illusion; Felipe Lopez's Solo Show at the Alliance Gallery

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If you have ever had a run in with visual artist Felipe Lopez be prepared to take notes. Lopez, a Houston-based multi-dimensional, multi-media artist has a lot of grand ideas about what art is and what art should be. He threads his notions of science and neurological activity into the art he creates and loves to explain the process. I had a lengthy conversation with the artist some time back, but wished that I was able to chat with him again while viewing his first solo exhibition, Constructing the Praxis of Interactivity, which is currently on display at the Houston Arts Alliance's Alliance Gallery.

When viewing a show, traditionally, I make a concerted effort not to speak with the artist as I feel like it skews my perception of what I'm looking at versus what they hope I am seeing. But Lopez is different. While, his artwork doesn't need explanation, it is aesthetically inviting on its own, it is benefited by Lopez' tangential yet ultimately cohesive explanation for what the heck he was thinking.

Regardless, I went at Lopez' new exhibition without any hand-holding and was still quite in awe of the work. Constructing the Praxis of Interactivity is a series of prints, sculptures and paintings that attempt to question your notion of seeing; what's an illusion and what is not. Lopez uses thermochromics (paints that change color as the temperature changes), as well as having created pieces in 3-D, and yes, 3-D glasses are available to the viewer.

Not knowing which piece in particular to wear said 3-D glasses for, I viewed each piece with them on and off. In The "Synesthesia Sound" series, Lopez has created a succession of multi-colored patterns on rice paper. With the glasses on, the patterns explode into each other and smacking you in the face with their intricacies. Without the glasses, the patterns weave in and out of each other. If you were the Predator and could only see body heat, perhaps this is what the world would look like.

In "Underwater Lab Rats Practicing Religion," which may be the greatest title of a piece of art ever, Lopez has hung a progression of roughly 8x10 sheets of roofing paper covered with blue splotches and red streaks. This is where the 3-D glasses really change your perception of reality as the red floats out from its confined flatness into a different realm right before your eyes. The repetitiveness of the images on the paper (lab rats?) are no longer monotonous.

Where Lopez throws you for a loop is with "Still Life with Suspicious Reality." A group of hangers are placed in something of a "Y" shape on the wall, jutting out at you by their hooks. Attached to the hangers are strips of plaster paper stained with red, blue, yellow and purple streaks. When you look at them from different vantage points, both the hangers and the attached strips change directions screwing with your depth perception. It's intriguing to move back and forth, side to side letting the form take you somewhere unexpected.

There is much to be gleaned from Lopez' exhibition in regards to how our sense of sight can trick us. For centuries, an illusion of the eye had been a part of any two-bit magician, and as we have better understood the inability of our visual perception to match the rate at which our brain can process images, film was born, television and so on. Lopez's works tap into that "something" the human eye has an inherent difficulty with. It is an exploration worthy of our attention, and Lopez's creations are as fascinating as they are modernistic.

"Constructing the Praxis of Interactivity" by Felipe Lopez runs through Friday, September 27 at the Alliance Gallery. Visit houstonartsalliance.com for more information and viewing times. Free.

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