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Let Your Imagination Run Wild in Peel Gallery's New Sculpture Show

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The joy of Peel Gallery's new show is making associations in purposefully abstract work -- colored pencils that come together to form a cactus, or a fat cat in Jennifer Maestre's work. The geometric angles of paper and wood that resemble some mutated Rubik's cube, courtesy of Tom Lauerman. The miniature sculptures that looks like commas, or comically small tables and stools, by Fabio Fernandez.

With other, less abstract works, the clever use of unexpected materials is delightful and inspiring -- the formation of red matchsticks to spell out the words "love" and "eros" (burning desire indeed) as in Pei-San Ng's companion pieces. The layering of sand dollars -- that lame seaside gift shop staple is Steve Davis's material of choice -- to create methodical, web-like designs that are then displayed in old cigar and tin boxes. In Gabriel Dawes's hanging centerpiece, toy soldiers are wrapped in colorful string and then suspended upside down from the ceiling by long strands of red, simultaneously bringing to mind thoughts of childhood play, war and metamorphosis.

Aptly titled "Shifting Transforming: Ideas, Shapes and Materials," the group show at Peel is a colorful, fun and engaging way to send in the summer. It features sculptural works by some previous Peel exhibitors -- Lauerman, Fernandez and Dawe among them -- and some newcomers.

One of those newcomers is Maestre, who's gained international attention for her pencil sculptures (she's even been featured on The Martha Stewart Show). Here, it's easy to see why -- they're compelling pieces that are so simple -- literally pieces of colored pencil sewn together -- but are so masterful and alluring that they steal the show.

The artist has said she was initially inspired by sea urchins, and that definitely comes through in her series of small round works aptly titled Urchins. Her larger works also give hints at their origins -- one, titled Fat Boy, resembles the form of a rotund human body. Another, Tiamat, the name a reference to a draconic goddess in the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, indeed looks like some sort of spiky, four-legged monster.

Simply alternating between the sharp point of the pencil and its flat end, Maestre's able to create complex contours and shapes that are out of this world and yet still familiar.

"Shifting Transforming: Ideas, Shapes and Materials" at Peel Gallery, 411 Montrose, #400, is showing now through July 28. For more information, call 713-520-8122 or visit the gallery's Web site.

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