The name Art Palace may suggest royalty but its current exhibition is determinedly lowbrow, in fact, refreshingly so. Jim Nolan is enamored of the plastic flowers found in Dollar Stores, and makes good use of them in this, his second solo show at Art Palace. Nolan can paint beautifully when he wants to - see his "Flower Portrait Pink" - but even here his demon imp has added, unobtrusively, the barcode tag.
More "in your face" is his "ABV#4 - w/ Bottle", as colorful large dots clustered together are pierced by an actual three-dimensional beer bottle, ugly indeed, and that is its point, as Nolan's irreverence is a send-up of an art world that sometimes can take itself too seriously.
His "Piss Painting" has extraordinary imagination and wit. There are two grey panels on either side of a wall, as in a pissoir, which one screened from view a departed user, who left behind against the wall four splotches, green, blue, yellow, red, still dripping downwards with gravity. Perhaps the absent departed user was an alien, marking his territory.
There is a cheerfulness about Nolan's art that is attractive. His"ABV# - Tight Cluster" again has a cluster of large dots, in pale colors. Its simplicity is endearing, and it is both interesting and involving. His "Still Life" has a colorful spray-painted bottle used as a vase, with two sprigs of artificial flowers in it, but the flowers still have their plastic wrappings on them, as Nolan continues to pull the rug from under out feet.
The largest and most ambitious work in the show is "My New Flag", composed of two large circles on the wall and on the floor a black backing for a round glass table top, resting on socks. I have absolutely no idea what it is all about, and that is probably Nolan's point. I did like one element: nestled in a corner of the work, on a pedestal, is a toy horse much smaller than its accompanying sign, reading "Needs work".
One 'sculpture' "Before & After Rachel" suggests a rich, untold romantic tale. There is a stereo speaker, painted bottles, and artificial flowers (of course!). It is at the same time nostalgic, very real, and unattractive - just as a relationship can be.
Art Palace has a second exhibition space in its rear gallery, and on display here, titled "Tripping on Pebbles . . . Sinking in Stone" are photographs by Charlie Morris. The subject matter for each photograph is carefully chosen, and the title is part of the impact.
An uncluttered photograph of a rock at first seems deceptively simple, but closer inspection reveals the rock to be heavily textured, even colorful, with varying greys and browns, and a small black hole in it. The title is "You Can Poke Out Only so Many Eyes".
"Read Dark Poetry" has a haunting quality, with a white, translucent curtain blowing in the breeze from the air-conditioner below, with a low landscape and a skyscape seen through the window. The curtains have a vibrant life, in contrast to the stolid static nature of the a/c.
I liked best "Mud Under Nails", a photo of a forest still life set up by Morris, which is complex and rich in texture. There are tall trees, the hacked stump of a much larger tree that has been harvested, two tires with treads so bare as to be dangerous, and the dented door of a truck or car. And in the foreground, the piece de resistance, is a log, decaying and so varied in texture as to steal the show once observed.
Jim Nolan: Apropos of Nothing continues through July 11, Art Palace, 3913 Main, open 11 to 6, Thursday through Saturday, 281-501-2964, artpalacegallery.com.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.