We Dare You Not To Like This Art

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Fresh Arts' latest exhibition wants to let you know right off the bat that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Titled Cats, Bunnies, and The Surface Value of It All, the two-person show is just as it sounds -- a lighthearted look at art that prominently features cats and bunnies that doesn't get much deeper than that.

But just because it is what is it, that doesn't meant it isn't any good. Au contraire. Lynn Lane's photographs and Melanie Loew's paintings are well-crafted pieces that are enjoyable to behold and examine.

Both artists present a portfolio edited down to their respective animals. Lane is on the feline side. He presents 21 black-and-white photography portraits -- giclee prints on 100 percent cotton rag archival paper -- set against a fantastic bold pink wall. The portraits are of Lane's friends -- a motley crew of choreographers, dancers, musicians, tattoo artists, body piercers, DJs, lawyers, cops and more that include a few prominent people in the Houston arts scene -- all holding his cat, Orange Cat.

Orange Cat proves to be quite the versatile model; he never holds the same pose twice and comically squirms and cuddles from one photo to the next. Lane's human models are unique in their own right, too. Once he lets them cut loose with a cat, he captures each person's presence in natural, flattering photos. Most of the subjects are smiling, if not laughing, and seem to be having a genuinely good time.

Loew's work is also comprised of portraits of people holding animals. But rather than photography, Loew works in paint on paper. She also trades cats for bunnies. Each bunny throughout her seven works is different, too. If you were an expert in this type of thing, you would be able to distinguish each breed, that's how exact her painting is.

Compared to Lane's works, Loew's side of the gallery has more of an edge and is weirder. Each person is set against a unique wallpaper pattern, and both animal and human seem to disappear into this flat background. They are all head and limbs, but no body; Loew edits out whole torsos.This subtraction, combined with the pallor of the subjects, gives the paintings an eerie, ghostly sense, but it works. The focus is on the pleasant faces and rabbits before you.

In such a simple conceit, both artists' works almost dare you not to like them (the bunny in Loew's aptly titled painting "Precious" is especially adorable). But you'll easily and gladly succumb to their charms -- and craft.

"Cats, Bunnies, and The Surface Value of It All" at Spacetaker Gallery at Fresh Arts, 2101 Winter Street Studio 11, runs now through April 26 with a closing day reception from 6-8 pm. For more information, call 713-868-1839 or visit www.spacetaker.org.

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