‘Codename Doomsday’ makes a splash (and other curiosities)

There’s something about a single-painting show that drives people nuts. When Albert Alvarez’ Codename Doomsday was shown for the first time last Friday at Sala Diaz the crowd on the front lawn chatted and drank beer as usual, but a steady stream of viewers continued to pour through the tiny gallery’s door till late to see the new work. Maybe it was the crucifixion scene dominating the center of the intricate painting that made me think of a religious procession, but folks did seem a bit beatified when they left the room. And unlike many of the characters depicted in this apocalyptic retablo, they weren’t even dead. A nuclear mushroom cloud swells above scenes of mayhem, inscribed words of despair, cartoon characters, and copulating couples surround the cross. Above, Air Force One explodes in a pretzel. The artist’s dour gaze peers up from the very bottom of the painting, as if to warn that this is no ex-voto celebrating disaster escaped, but a warning. Content aside, the painting is a delight. Alvarez has taken the delicacy of his trademark precision drawing into the realm of color, and brought us a jewel of a painting that shimmers like tempera or inlayed stone. Free, by appointment, 517 Stieren, (210) 852-4492, saladiazart.org. On view to January 15.

One of the strongest shows of late at Joan Grona Contemporary Art opened last week with paintings by Jason Willome and small sculptures by Emily Fleisher. Willome’s neatly done realistic portraits are contrasted with his mixed-media works, old photographs annotated with obscure rendering and mysteriously covered with phlegm-like smears, they seem to hint at the losses of time. Fleisher’s tiny, furry landscapes filled with toy trees and improbable hillocks play nicely with Willome’s pieces; the gallery has become a memory room. Free, Tue 12-5pm, Wed-Fri 11am-5pm, Sat 11am-6pm, 112 Blue Star. (210) 225-6634, joangronagallery.com. On view to January 7.

If Phillip King’s sculptures at Blue Star Contemporary Art don’t rock your boat, it might be because you associate his abstract shapes with art of your parents’ generation. King has been at this game for awhile — he was an assistant to Henry Moore before his own career took off in 1966. Take a closer look, and if you’re tall, bend down a bit. The large pieces work much more effectively when seen from an eye-level of 5 feet. The pale wood sculptures by Phillip John Evett, also at Blue Star, are a relief from King’s blocks of color. Why Evett’s obsession with legs, I have no idea. But I would like to look at them again. Harold Wood’s paintings in the back room? Not so much. Free, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 12-6pm Thu 12-8pm, 116 Blue Star, (210) 227-6960, bluestarart.org. On view to February 12.

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