Will Henry, In the Dust (2011), gouache on paper, 11 by 10 inches
  • James Harris Gallery
  • Will Henry, In the Dust (2011), gouache on paper, 11 by 10 inches

Love real landscapes but find them dead-ended in art? Mirage is a small show of refreshing contemporary landscape paintings at James Harris Gallery. It's only eight works total, by four artists. One artist is new to the gallery: Texas artist Will Henry. (Here's a nice review of Henry's work by former Houston Chron critic Douglas Britt.)

Henry's two paintings at the gallery are wry and dry. In the Dust, above, gives the impression of actually being dusted by sand on its surface. Instead, that sand-like stuff is tiny flecks of paint. They form a mini-twister that, for unexplained reasons, has a painted canvas in its grip—an abstraction—out in the middle of nowhere in the overwhelming desert. Jackson Pollock famously said he didn't need to paint nature because he was nature. Henry sends up the pretensions both of art and of nature-worship. (His other painting in the show is In Tandem.)

Mary Ann Peters, Mirage (from a history of ruin), 2012
  • James Harris Gallery
  • Mary Ann Peters, Mirage (from a history of ruin), 2012

All the paintings in Mirage are worth seeing; here's a page with them all. Marcelino Goncalves's diptych of the view out a window during a rainstorm has a serene plein air feel, but when the two paintings come together on the wall, they complete a soft rainbow that quietly and sweetly references the artist's usual queer subjects.

Claire Cowie, Treehouse No. 2 (2012), gouache, ink, graphite, sumi color, and collage on paper, 41 3/4 by 29 3/4 inches
  • James Harris Gallery
  • Claire Cowie, Treehouse No. 2 (2012), gouache, ink, graphite, sumi color, and collage on paper, 41 3/4 by 29 3/4 inches
Seattle artist Claire Cowie shows two Treehouse pieces, tighter than the works in her last exhibition at James Harris but just as capable of grabbing the eye and leading it around using pattern, color, and the kind of line that is absolutely, almost cheerfully sure of itself while it's busy going about defying the laws of perspective.

The gallery is full of bright color, but Seattle artist Mary Ann Peters's ink and watercolor on claybord paintings are an oasis in shades of cream and burned paper. They feel like her strongest locally seen work in years, coming after her recent (and first) trip to her family's homeland of Lebanon.

Mirage (from a history of ruin) (2012) especially is a complete experience, an allover scene with no negative space, the surface dominated by wispy marks that level the field between air and substance. A staircase or corner of architecture is submerged behind a veil of storm clouds or a gust of wind blown from some unseen god-mouth. Ruins rack up, layer by layer.