"SHOW UP" Documents That Important Art Can Be Great Fun

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The Zoya Tommy Contemporary Gallery has a knack for showing works of wit and substance, and for documenting that significant art can be great fun. The current exhibit "SHOW UP" does that in spades.

It has works that range from jocular (painted art on imitation toast in real 'found' toasters by Katie Pell) to powerful abstract art that is exciting. An example of the latter is The Messenger by Guus Kemp, where the paint is slathered on with a generosity of spirit, enriching the texture. It has a multi-colored lavish energy, inviting one in, like a commanding but pleasant vortex.

Kemp has another abstract work, Aphrodite's Dance which has a central image, perhaps a petaled flower or a palm tree, in its upper center. Its luminous center is attractive, but I decided not to join the dance.

Charles Krafft works with porcelain, blue painted on white, and has a number of amusing portraits of famous persons, some masquerading as teapots: North Korea's Kim Jong II, Yukio Mishima (the influential Japanese author who committed hara-kiri in 1970), Russia's Vladimir Putin, and the one I like best - a remarkable likeness - of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The porcelain looks like Dresden china, and Krafft has a most moving work, a platter that shows warplanes bombing a city, with a title painted on the platter Dresden 1945. Whether the fire-bombing of Dresden in the final months of World War II was justified in military terms has been a matter of controversy. Regardless, this is a powerful statement on the horrors of war.

Krafft also has a hand-painted AK-47 on one wall, frightening in that Krafft has made it beautiful, despite its lethal destructive power.

Peter Zelle has an imposing glass sculpture, Ocean Sonata, 87 inches high, that suggests a headless female in its contour, but is composed of a number of colored glass elements that depict waves and seagulls. It has considerable beauty, and a subtle power, and I hope a public Houston building purchases it, so I can visit it again soon; it is wonderful.

Lester Marks prints photographic imagery on Fuji Crystal, with a limited edition of seven, and shows four works. One, primarily blue, has an explosive force from its center, and is intriguing. I was captivated by one I mentally titled Tilted Stage, which is what it represented to me (I am a theater buff). What could be a picture frame seemed to me to be a proscenium arch, I saw the red stripes as curtains, the stage empty but yearning to be filled, and the whole colored with an eager anticipation that something, something important, was about to happen. Curtains up!

Antonia Richardson is showing large abstract works of mixed media. One is titled Rojo Rhythm, and I was unimpressed, as a dominant red element seemed too streaked and pale, as though the finishing layer of paint had been neglected. Curiously, I loved the thumbprint of the same painting for two reasons - the camera lens had darkened the red, so the streaking was no longer visible, and the picture had been rotated in the photograph (Richardson encourages this) to place the large red element at bottom right, serving as an anchor to an expanding vista. I much preferred this rotation, but was assured by a gallery assistant that my judgment was in error.

There are ten artists showing, so the intimate gallery bristles with art. A large packing crate in the middle of the gallery has a score of additional works that can be viewed, and a separate large table holds smaller pieces, while under it a large number of pull-out shelves include still more. The goal was "an overload of color and artwork", and this generous gallery has more than succeeded.

SHOW UP (group exhibition) continues through September 6, Zoya Tommy Contemporary, 4411 Montrose, open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., 713-523-7424, zoyatommy.com.

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