Off the Wall 

Three shows rethink reality.

Where to start with an exhibition as powerful as "Veda Reed: Daybreak/Nightfall" at David Lusk Gallery? I could tell you how Reed's complex glazes and subtle gradations of color in her large oils on canvas create optical illusions that dance like the Northern Lights across the gallery walls. I could describe how weird, beautiful, and surreal her skyscapes become as she mixes day with night, memory with vision, and what looks like the cosmos with the volatile and wide-open Oklahoma skies of her childhood.

I could tell you how in Daybreak: The edge of dawn, 2 a huge planet dwarfs a sun that splits into two and spews cadmium yellow, then crimson, then mahogany, then burgundy into the darkness, or how some of Reed's suns and planets break into shards of light that are satisfying patterns of abstraction, or how soft billows of gray vermillion in an elongated sky in Nightfall: "Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away" ease us into an eternity envisioned, in part, by Henry F. Lyte's hymn, "Abide with Me."

Or we could go straight to the disturbingly beautiful Nightfall: "fast falls the eventide ...", where a black dome arches over a neon saucer of light hovering between a vermillion sky and seamless black sea. Beginnings and endings simultaneously play out as we glimpse first light through the mouth of Plato's cave and peer at the last rays of the sun over the lip of a vault whose domed lid is closing.

With endless aureoles of yellow and vermillion fading into smoky crimson and black, Reed reaches higher and deeper into the cosmos than she ever has before.

At David Lusk Gallery through April 28th

As demonstrated in "Annabelle Meacham: Recent Work" at Jay Etkin Gallery, Meacham can do just about anything with paint and canvas. In her rendition of art deco's sheer beauty, Hope and Desire, a pink lily is set against porcelain skin on a jewel-toned background in which every millimeter is gilded and faceted. In The Portrait, a matron with a stern expression sits with her white Persian cat in a fishbowl existence wryly emphasized by the goldfish swimming Magritte-like around her head.

What makes this body of work most powerful is not the surreal surprise or hyper-real detail but Meacham's poignant and astute observations about the natural world. In Revelations, a woman sits at a grand piano that has sprouted a lush garden. She and her small hound look at the full moon through the large windows of the sanctuary/prison of their beautifully appointed drawing room.

In the whimsical Reflections, tiny deer painted on a Qing dynasty vase leap across precipices of mountains that jut straight up from flat land. White flowers pattern the chartreuse vase to the right. At center a butterfly flies past another finely sculpted vessel: a bare human derriere. Tendrils sprout from it in an image at the edge of propriety that weaves fertile bodies, the fertile earth, and fertile imaginations into one organic whole.

At Jay Etkin Gallery through April 21st

During the past year, Dwayne Butcher married, traveled widely, and began graduate studies at Memphis College of Art — all of which is reflected in Butcher's exhibition "Art Made with a Ring" at Delta Axis @ Marshall Arts.

In each of the 16 panels of Multi-Scully #1, a drip of enamel flows down, thrusts up, or oozes across art that is, in all other regards, stark and geometric. Placed side-by-side, the panels become kaleidoscopic metaphors for life undergoing change.

Several of the show's strongest paintings reference Marfa, a Texas town whose landscape is as stark as any abstract artwork. Marfa is also the permanent site for the work of minimalist Donald Judd, one of Butcher's major influences. The soft earth tones, round edges, pale mauve drips, and blue background of Blue Door at Marfa #3 evoke Marfa's adobes, buttes, mesas, and clear-blue skies.

This painting is a welcome addition to Butcher's art. Last year's exhibition, "Supermandamnfool," was sharp-edged and saturate. Add to that body of work Butcher's Blue Door at Marfa series, and you get an artist whose expanding vision is rethinking minimalism.

At Delta Axis @ Marshall Arts through April 28th

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