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Some Incredible Work: "Larassa Kabel: and all of this so far from Heaven"

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Colored pencils get a bad rap. As is the case with the equally derided watercolor, there is nothing inherently wrong with the medium, it's just that they both seem to attract so many people who make such bad art. Larassa Kabel's work at Peel Gallery is, for the most part, a welcome exception.

Kabel works in a restrained black and white palette. Her series of small works done from oddly cropped photos provoke that "Wow, it looks just like a photo!" response. They aren't bad, but they just aren't pushed far enough beyond skillful duplication, and showing them framed with glass and clips over colored mats doesn't help to dispel colored pencil's high school art associations.

But Kabel is capable of some really incredible work, and her series of eight-by-eight-foot drawings of horses in free-fall are stunning. Set against blank white paper, the massive animals twist and contort in the air, their manes and tails flowing, their muscles clearly visible under their shiny coats. They remind me of an equine version of Robert Longo's 1980s drawings of flailing yuppies. If Kabel keeps producing work of this caliber, Prismacolor should give her a stipend.

The show runs through April 30 at Peel Gallery, 4411 Montrose. For tickets, call 713-520-8122.

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