Art, Nouveau

After a spring season of veteran exhibitions, the new artists swarm into the light during these boiling summer months like cockroaches driven out from beneath the fridge. The galleries fill this otherwise dead time and space with emerging artist shows, and right now, Craighead-Green has one of the best samplers going with its 5th Annual New Texas Talent. Leave it to freelance art critic Charles Dee Mitchell to pick a handful of true talent from the vast Texas menu. As juror of this year's event, he's relinquished his role as occasional poison-pen executioner to become an even-handed judge.

What makes this show different from so many other local new-artist shows is the higher commercial stakes. Craighead-Green ain't no co-op or obscure alternative space; these guys sell pricey art to lofty clients. So while regular collectors drop in for a private viewing of the latest Susan Sales painting, they catch glimpses of this untried stuff on the walls (and floors), and if they have an eye worth keeping, they might notice that these new artists aren't half bad, and that, hell, they could buy three or four of these pieces for the price of one Sales. Not a bad idea, really.

Likely, Mitchell sifted through countless slides (and, alas, earnest artist statements) before finding this handful of hopefuls. And as with all new-talent shows, there are a few dubious entrants: One of Heather Murray's flat, uninspired paintings shows up here (as with DVAC's current emerging-artist show). And Jesse Meraz's bulbous gum-and-Styrofoam beasties seem repetitive and dull in the wake of Scott Barber, Aaron Baker, and Michael Eudy -- oft-shown artists in these parts who favor amorphous creature features. But, for the most part, the works are everything from pleasantly engaging to downright excellent.

Upon entering the gallery, you catch Christine Bisetto's rather clean and serene bird portraits -- expressively scrawled outlines of them on colorblock paper in simple frames. While there's nothing artistically pioneering about them, they soothe the trapped-indoors soul. Bernie Flores Ansel takes a comic turn with his "Taxonomy of Shoes," in which he has splayed tiny photos of footwear into foldout wings, Rorschach-style, upon stick pins in a glass showcase -- butterflies from vanity land. David Thompson's tiny "King Kong" portrait, a smoky graphite rendering of the beast atop the Empire State Building, is both sad and funny -- because of its scale more than anything.

But the showstoppers are near the back. Sarah Nix Ginn does a whole new take on home-culture irony with her transmogrified dress patterns. She's curved them into stark, pristine cylinders of rice paper embellished with thousands of stickpins. They hang side-by-side on a wall, silently mocking, and their muted colors and organically clean shapes are sculpturally satisfying even without the craft reference.

Devon Moore does the abstract-minimalist take with elegant precision. One large sheet of thickly corrugated steel is striped with smooth layers of oil paint, each stripe of a different cheeky hue, and the alternating raw steel and painted panels create a punchy graphic colorscape. Hanging assertively on its own wall, it would be quite at home with any Judd or Marden.

The show's clincher, across from Moore, is Gerald Lopez. His acrylic screen prints are lyrical, spontaneous testaments to gut-meets-thought; they're as comical as they are knowing. "The Machine That Does Nothing You Want It To" sets up a playful, abstracted landscape of obstacle-course characters and mechanical confusion, the living things and machinery often sharing body parts -- pipes and drains -- and frustration. And his "Motion Picture With Light Added for Dramatic Effect" is moody and hilarious, a blocky film camera capturing a costumed player as a single buzzing lightbulb casts an atmospheric glow upon the scene. That Lopez can compose an entire story with such reduced shapes and implied information is impressive, making him one to look for in the future. I'd forgo any Sales piece for one of his. Just a suggestion.

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Christina Rees

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