Visual Arts

Reverse Equation Offers Calming Aquatic Abstracts and Mathematical Mindscapes

Experience the cool, calming aquatic inspired imagery of abstract painter Katherine Houston, then warm up your brain with the three-dimensional geometric mindscapes of math artist Michael Schultheis, both on display now in the Reverse Equation exhibit at Laura Rathe Fine Art.

Schultheis plays with the concept of spherical geometry so that the edges of his compositions, which are theoretically closer to you, are full of action, while the further away centers are misty and sparse. The artist has imagined an oculus, similar to the concrete dome found in Rome's Pantheon.

His initial inspiration comes from a colleague who filled chalkboards with equations, erased some of her work, wrote more equations and repeated the layered process until she rendered it "perfect." His limaçons and cardioids - looped, dimpled and convex curves - float on equation-filled backgrounds of dusty, chalky blue and seafoam green.

The environments in which these shapes live are what make the works so attractive. Evoking subsea images in some, mountainous clouds in others, and punctuated with pops of orange and russet, they are highly energetic and perhaps evocative of other planetary realms.

These floating limaçons seem to dance, interact and react to each other, sometimes flattening, merging, separating, intersecting, rotating or splitting apart. His mathematical equations represent more perfect versions of these geometric forms, though only visible within the mind's eye, an intentional dimensionality by the artist.

Four of his pieces were similar in tone, Homage to Menelaus, Wings of Durer, Limacon Rings and Celadon Limacons; one would have difficulty selecting his/her favorite. The fifth piece, Evening Cardioids, was refreshing in its darker cobalt hues and tones.

The "Reverse" of this exhibit, works by Katherine Houston, involves the application of paint layers on acrylic from front to back. All That is Blue is an aquamarine dream, spread over two panels, with touches of green, cobalt and white, ebbing and flowing like undersea currents. Her Aubergine, though similar in shape, evokes images of layered skies with its cobalt blues and violet colors interspersed with clouds.

The reverse painting technique is especially effective in Dreaming in Color, with its ghostly surface of white clouds, punctuated by a glowing turquoise form rising up from the mist. The points of a sub-surface triad begin to appear at the edges, in the east, south and west.

Houston plays with depth in her 9-piece Cubes, with the varying thicknesses of the differently sized acrylic cubes adding contrast. As a whole, the piece seems to represent segmented microcosms of aquatic life. Depth also comes in to play with Gradation, a 15-segment joined piece that declines in height towards the center, then climbs back up again, much like our ocean floors.

Reverse Equation continues through April 25, at Laura Rathe Fine Art, 2707 Colquitt, open Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 713-527-7700,

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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney