Houston-born Jackie Gendel paints portraits and people in a style that recalls a number of late-19th-early-20th-century French painters, but with cranked-up distortion. Her people are constantly obscured by a surface abstraction, or they retreat into the background, virtually faceless with the furniture and décor surrounding them.
Chaty and Marthe in the Kitchen is perhaps this series's most striking work, and it demonstrates Gendel's anti-narrative approach. Two women sit at a kitchen table looking epically bored. Their faces and hair are the most detailed parts of the painting, which is brilliantly colored as well. In fact, its brightness is in direct opposition of the malaise depicted.
In Calloway, a 1930s-era man is surrounded by wild abstraction that is threatening to envelop him. In a trio of small gouache-on-paper works, Gendel's subjects turn noir-ish, suggesting an unknowable evil in the characters' black-and-white eyes. Field of Mars III looks like a scene out of Greek Myth updated by the presence of a woman in a 1980s outfit and hairdo. Gendel challenges our notions of art and history with mischievous and dreamy flourishes.
Through July 2. Bryan Miller Gallery, 3907 Main, 713-523-2875.