A R T   L E T T E R

The Timely Magazine of Art

#34 <previous/ next> Artletter index August 1, 1996

Mario Perez at Brent Gallery                                                           ends	9/28

The best show up now in Houston. Untitled  is the most frankly decorative, a vertical swatch of
beachy blue-grays falling in tattered ribbons, emblazoned with an enigmatic but zesty logotype.
This high-tech three dimensional star hovers, centered, in the blue-gray atmosphere. Its flat,
angular, planes of color lie on the surface of the painting as if they could be peeled off. In
Somewhere  white on white streaks run over gray, partially camouflaging the word
"SOMEWHERE" in fading but emphatic italic capitals. Here the opposition of bleachy white field
and fading white graphic is unruffled and less thought provoking. In Mr. Oily, vertical runs of
gloss and matte black  suggest both the satiny sheen of a top hat and a grease encrusted engine
block, provoking a violently mixed tactile response. Perez goes a step further; by overpainting
the word "Mr. Oily" in a dandified, ornate script he makes the entire painting an elegant/ greasy
calling card for a smooth villain. S en Punto!  is a leftover from Perez' 1995  show. Like and
unlike the newer works, it shows how far Perez has come in the last two years. In S en Punto!  a
wash of black drips lies over a huge lopsided letter "S", dirty and awkward like an amateur sign
at an abandoned gas station. In this older work, the wash is equated with age and pathos; effective,
but less interesting and much less contemporary than the same wash of drips used in the newer
works to create decorative voids.-B.D.

Shahzia Sikander at Barbara Davis Gallery                                     	8/17

Sikander's intimate paintings seem sincere but fatally reticent. The painstaking decorative detail
and intriguing exoticism of many of the works mask their trite sentimentality.  Unwilling to
commit to a clearly articulated statement,  Sikander's works mumble through a series of
unexamined cliches which stand in for true self-expression.  Sikander works in four different
modes. Her "straight" miniature paintings are stiff, like illustrations done for reproduction; they
seem dry and overworked when compared with the zippy, fluent brushwork and bold graphic
patterns of the found miniature paintings she uses as backgrounds for the photo-collage pieces.
The photomontage pieces themselves are muddled and arty. Seeming like an afterthought, the large
scale wall paintings which introduce the show magnify  Sikander's dry, labored painting, and
combine it with meaningless text. The hybridized works which combine delicate figurative
elements with liquid blots, clouds, and stains are sporadically effective. Loaded images like an
eye, an exaggerated female torso, a deer, and a mandala suggest mystical readings of the vaguely
sentimental drips which make up the balance of each picture.-B.D.

Harvey Bott at The Art League sculpture court	8/30

Bott's signature shape, the archetypal sled is recreated in painted canvas over plywood. Like giant
building blocks wrapped in striped circus tents. -B.D.

Janet Smartt at Brasil Cafe	8/12

Low intensity, aimless abstractions. Smartt deserves credit for avoiding horrendous cliches of
brushwork and the decorative color schemes which would place her works squarely in the tasteful
office furniture category, but achieves little else. The small scale of the paintings constrains and
diminishes the gloppy paint gestures; these works were painted with the wrist, not with the
whole body, like small scale reproductions of ab-ex work. They have the look of passion without
the substance. If it is any consolation, many less interesting abstractions hang in museums.-B.D.

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