As an art world influence, the Renaissance approach to painting is with us still. Fusing Renaissance techniques to an idiosyncratic vision is an ongoing pursuit, and few are more idiosyncratic than Michael Northuis, who melds the cool virtuosity of Jan van Eyck and the expressionism of Otto Dix with sci-fi movie extravagance. Couple With Onlookers (pictured) suggests an expressionist space opera — the man wears a bejeweled Conehead hat and the woman a Star Trek coif. They also share the same torso, which subverts their otherwise pleasant proportions. In Mariachi Wedding, a space alien gaucho with a banjo serenades a busty Valkyrie from Venus handcuffed to a Nordic cowboy from Mars in what appears to be a laser-shotgun wedding. If this suggests a stylistic smorgasbord, it's actually 100 percent pure Northuis, and while we never know exactly what he's doing, few can deny he does it very well.
If Northuis infuses the weird with the ordinary, Matthew Cox infuses the ordinary with the weird in paintings of people eating in a variety of prosaic situations. Painted in a loose, figurative style reminiscent of William Hogarth's oil sketches, Cox alludes to the banal comedies of manners that result from various human cravings — psychic as well as physical forms of emptiness. But he takes emptiness to another level in his series of partially embroidered X-rays of human heads and bodies, fleshing them out with strands of yarn that read like thick brushstrokes. Da Vinci it ain't, but the Renaissance master of anatomy would no doubt appreciate the novelty. — D. Eric Bookhardt
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!: Paintings by Michael Northuis
Through April 28
Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300; www.heriardcimino.com
A MOMENT ON THE LIPS: Paintings by Matthew Cox
Through April 21
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400a Julia St., 522-5471; www.jonathanferraragallery.com