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Concentrations 46: Zones of Dissolution Escapism can often provide the most direct path to reality. In his three-room installation, Daniel Roth pops the escape hatch, leading us to a reality that is bifurcated--equal parts fantasy and factuality. Roth works in a variety of media, including drawing, photography, sculpture and architecture, in order to convey scant messages of nature lost and found. Titled "Cabrini Green Forest," the first portion of the installation is in two rooms, one through which you enter normally and the other a makeshift space that forces submission upon entry. Because of the adjacent room's small door (roughly 5 feet in height), one must bow to enter as though crossing the daunting threshold of a medieval prison. With faint drawings on the walls of trees shunting underneath and atop an invisible ground plane next to the cold pragmatism of architectural plans, Roth combines the fantasy of an underground forest with the reality of incarceration. Along the wall of the short corridor leading to the final space of the installation is "Die Stimme," or "The Voice" in English, the second portion of Zones of Dissolution. The primary vehicles in this provocatively disparate gathering of objects is a letter from the World War I battlefront written in German and the mid-sized drawing of a skull cut and pierced by architectural fragments. In the back room is Roth's paean to local culture, "Lost Arms in a Crystal World." One finds there a postcard, two photographs, a large quasi-surrealist drawing suggestive of the Dallas skyline (the best of the exhibition), and interior architecture in the form of a red-brick pier with large plastic bull horns sprouting from the top and a red-brick cubicle cut away from the wall. On the floor is a stuffed red fox pierced by thin crystal wedges. Foggy though it may be, Roth's message here is one concerning the perverse "nature" of Dallas--that it is manufactured and native all at once. Roth's work is contemporary and à la mode in its porous and patchy Conceptualism and hoary and wise in its portentous Romanticism. Through April 10 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood St., 214-922-1200. Reviewed this week. (Charissa N. Terranova)

Jesse Meraz Wonderland and Jason Villegas: Growth Hormone Mutation MakeoverMeraz and Villegas are archaeologists of the present. They disinter pretty plastic detritus from the morass of American popular culture--those objects that defy willy-nilly the laws of entropy. Meraz leaves one paradigm of representation in the wake of another: painting in two dimensions on a square canvas for bright new thundering forms. He makes glitter paintings in acrylic and gel mounted on wood, painting on both the front and back of wooden boards shaped like mandorlas and ye olde family crests. The fluorescent, almost-opaque surfaces of the front side of his panels yield to the play of bright color on the back, color that is subtly reflected in the shadow between the hung painting and wall. With a BFA in sculpture from the University of Houston, Villegas' work enters the realm of three dimensions more forthrightly than Meraz's. This is not to say that Villegas does not paint. Does he paint...and a whole lot more! "Cyborg Christian With Botched Facelift" is a sculptural bust in cardboard and tape mounted on the wall. On the floor beneath it is the hapless fallen visage of a once full-faced and newly prettified Christian. In "Ignorant Categorization 1" and "Ignorant Categorization 2," Villegas fabricates makeshift mosaics out of small fabric squares with bits of paper sewn on them. Meraz and Villegas create super-wack art representative of a nerdified Super Fly subculture. And Plush is there to host the happening. This is a with-it joint tucked away downtown across from one of the most beautiful if not tumbledown buildings in the city--the Y-shaped midcentury modern Dallas Grand Hotel designed by William B. Tabler in 1956. Let's hope that Plush doesn't get priced out by the gentrification of this neighborhood of which it is surely the catalyst. Through February 19 at Plush, 1927 Commerce St., 214-498-5423. (C.T.)

 
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