Capsule Reviews

Miroslav Antic, Recent Paintings If these paintings were actually more antic, like the author's surname, we might have something interesting on our hands. They're not terrible paintings, just woefully tepid both intellectually and formally. A native of Yugoslavia now heading up the painting and drawing department at the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, Antic paints new paintings that look old. Pretenders to moth-eatennness, his canvases are ersatz worn. His is a faded palette of ochre, taupe, rose and watered-down burnt umber. The subject matter is traditional--old interiors, historicist architecture faades and animal portraiture. Antic's goal is to tear down this tradition through painting a shiny surface of trompe l'oeil raindrops atop such classical imagery. "Salon" shows a view into a rococo interior faded by many years of sunlight glow, with faux raindrops daintily painted atop, beaded up as though part of the waxy build-up of a just-buffed car. Similarly mottled by fake droplets, "Horse" makes a humorous contrapuntal statement to the "Stubbs and the Horse" show down the highway at the Kimbell Museum. Whether intentional or not, this work is cartoonish. Through November 27 at Cidnee Patrick Gallery, 2404 Cedar Springs Road at Maple Avenue, 214-855-5101. (Charissa N. Terranova)

Libby Johnson, New Paintings Johnson paints still-life flora--flowers in vases set against velvety backgrounds, made otherworldly by way of crepuscular glow. Her obsession with the transformation of light at sunset brings to mind the odd counterfeit quality of photo-realist painting, such as early Chuck Close, Richard Estes and Malcolm Morley. "Suspension," a lettuce head dangling from a thread in a sky made ominous by the pink and mauve of a just-set sun, also brings to mind the surrealist game of light and clouds in the work of the Belgian Magritte. Johnson's paintings come across as fanciful--nature morte ("still life" in French) eerily animated by way of the Disney-like glow of light at dusk. Through November 27 at Cidnee Patrick Gallery, 2404 Cedar Springs Road at Maple Avenue, 214-855-5101. (C.T.)

Susan Sales, A Decade in Dallas When looking through the gallery window from the sidewalk, the paintings of Susan Sales appear to bear textured and impastoed surfaces of colorful and sludgy paint. When inside, in front of them, you realize you've been fooled. The surfaces are shiny and shellacked--covered over and given a transparent carapace with a varnish called "medium." Sales rethinks the prototypical Abstract Expressionist canvas (say a Rothko or early Newman) by way of a much earlier past, the 19th century, when artists would run around the gallery applying varnish (hence the word "vernissage" in French, which means "opening") in the last minutes before presenting their work to the public. The canvases range from utter abstraction, "Counterfeit Cowboy" and "Drunk on Possibility," to a child-like play of unidentifiable forms, the series of 11 paintings titled "More Important Things." Sales' strength is her trompe l'oeil tomfoolery of surfaces, the way she smooths over and purifies what appear from afar to be tactile planes of emotive paint. Through November 27 at Craighead-Green Gallery, 2404 Cedar Springs Road, Suite 700, 214-855-0779. (C.T.)

Bodies Past and Present: The Figurative Tradition in the Nasher Collection In this succinct array of sculptural pieces now showing in the two main galleries on the street level of the Nasher Sculpture Center, one is not so much challenged by the figure of the human body but carefully taught by it. Offering a lesson on modern art in the 20th century, this tidy exhibition packs an intellectual punch. In two rooms, from Matisse's "Decorative Figure" (1908) to Oldenburg's "Typewriter Eraser" (1976), we are told a story of intellectual displacement, the exciting unfolding of humanism's transposition in the last 100 years. Through the not so lugubrious game of abstraction and contortion, we are shown how modernism immediately brought with it a dismantling of man as front and center in the universe. This is brought home with the forthright prominence in the front gallery of the vaguely bulbous and modernist amazon figure by Gaston Lachaise, "Elevation (Standing Woman)." While bisected by two rooms, one filled with pre-World War II forms and the other post-World War II forms, the show offers a continuous yet largely nonlinear tale of the fall of traditional humanism in the academy. Ongoing at the Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora St., 214-242-5100. (C.T.) Now Show

Ellen George Out of Doors Based in Washington state, Ellen George is a sculptor making work that seems at once deep-sea and extraterrestrial in nature. While the work comes to us from the Pacific Northwest, it would seem to have arrived from farther away, evidence of a tiny alien invasion. Tucked away in the walk-in closet-scaled Project Room at Conduit Gallery is George's cute but powerful phalanx of pastel-colored other-worldly visitors that look like they come from galaxies yet unknown. George makes small biomorphic creatures from polymer clay, a malleable and translucent vinyl-based sculptural material. Some, like "Meadow Study No. 22" and "Corsage," are hung cantilevered by thin strands of metal from the wall. Their squiggly-jiggly animate form casts similarly squiggly-jiggly animate shadows on the wall. Mounted on tiny translucent resin consoles are squat little faceless creatures. The "Thin Air" series are bulbous with asymmetrical arms twirling akimbo. "Oracle" offers a display of shell-like forms. And "Quartet" makes for a harmony in diminutive blue and peach form. George's tiny pieces bring to mind the forms of industrial design, in particular the animated but useful objects of Philippe Stark, Alessi design and Michael Graves. Instead of investing the objects with function, though, George charges them with the sheer delight of beautiful whimsy. Through November 27 in the Project Room at Conduit Gallery, 1626 Hi Line Drive, 214-939-0064. (C.T.)

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