"The Art of Celebration" Exhibit Explodes in Bright Colors

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Bright, happy colors, complex themes, and a strong use of red are all evident in the current "The Art of Celebration" exhibit at Nicole Longnecker Gallery, which features artists from Houston's Jewish Family Service's Celebration Company, a program for adults with disabilities. The common theme of this exhibit is joyfulness, and artist Ari Klein said it best, "I enjoy drawing because I am able to think out loud on paper."

Standouts include Arthur Alexander's The Sun at Night, with a tiny little white sun on a blue background in the upper left-hand corner. The theme of houses is repeated in his works, and is executed beautifully in Gray Barn House.

Inspired by Baytown's chemical plants, Ian Spindler used a more muted palette. The yellow red, The green apartment in baytown and The golden chemical plant/blue featured outlined linear structures; one sported red monster goblins, eponymous of leaked poisons and chemical spills.

One could easily imagine Hiding, by Kevyn McIlveen, in a conventional art exhibit. Bright, upward swirls of purple waves, cresting in a tumultuous sea with vulnerable boat adrift in the storm; it is beautifully executed and gives proof to the artist's claim that he always tries to use the color purple. Different in style was his Giddy Up, inspired by cave drawings and taking full advantage of negative space to illustrate a cowboy boot, the state of Texas, and galloping horses.

Melissa Shapiro's Birds and Rain reminded me of stained glass with their bright, saturated jewel tones. She used the opposite technique in Traffic, intersecting jewel-colored roads in a chaotic arrangement against a white background.

Cari Cowen invoked dark, jungle-like colors from equatorial climates. Two of the smaller works, How to get dizzy with the letter C and Creation of the sky incorporated swirling movements, inviting the viewer to follow the motion deeper into the center, all the while getting smaller and smaller.

Emily Higgins offered up some of the brightest and happiest pieces of the show. The Queen Peace, a quadriptych of flowers against pink, orange and teal backgrounds, was incredibly sweet. The star of her collection was The Princess, with three colorful flowers arranged all in a row.

Many artists are on display; almost all include at least one piece of pigment on handmade recycled paper. Evan Levine helps to shred the paper used in this papermaking process; his acrylics incorporated powerful, deep saturated reds applied with large brushes for added texture. Gabrielle Howard's work was non-representational and featured bold colors; Space and the Final Frontier, with its yellows, teals and oranges, was energetic and full of motion. Ari Klein's controlled blocks and rectangles were powerful, strong and reminiscent of Reggae or the tropics. Jeffery Markman's grids and squares showed an excellent use of color, and Halley Turner's Sun rays was a bright explosion of yellow over tangerine.

Elaine Goldgar favored primary colors, and Linda Lopen's Blast off used an ingenious multi-colored dragged brush technique, bringing much energy and movement to the variegated greens and reds against a blue background. Amy Davis brought red and pink to life with her layered strokes and under-painting; Shelly Heffler relished in the use of hot magenta; Evan White invoked themes of love and friendship; and Lucia Ott relished in her use of color. Harry Samelson's Stovetop was not like any kitchen appliance I had ever seen, but appealing in its asymmetrical use of cross-in-circle shapes against a hot background of oranges and reds. The Art of Celebration continues through February 14, at Nicole Longnecker Gallery, 2625 Colquitt Street, open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 713-591-4997, longneckergallery.com.

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