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Sliver by Sandy Chism and Soliloquy by Carlos Estevez

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In her cryptically titled show, Sliver, at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, Sandy Chism paints images of roller coasters, bees and beehives, bucolic backyards and the tepid gray waves of lackadaisical seas. There is a pervasive shifting of scale, from micro to macro, in these pretty but perplexing juxtapositions of images that suggest visual puzzles, or even private jokes. In Rumble (pictured), a roller coaster ends abruptly in a slate-colored patch of sky as detached banners flap in the breeze and mysterious orbs hover like gulls in an updraft. There also are polished steel panels featuring a fine scrimshaw of mysterious patterns behind shining silver studs that glimmer like little stars. What does it all mean? And is it annoying? In fact, there is a subtle order underlying the chaos in works like Tending, where close-up views of bees in a honeycomb are joined by images of distant skyscrapers and a chain link fence bounding a funky front yard. Underlying her jarring and dystopian juxtapositions is a recurring pattern of interwoven matter and energy, like a subliminal network that has the potential to knit things back together as life unravels in a fatalistic, almost Walker Percy-esque sense of hope amid the ruins.

  Cuban-American artist Carlos Estevez explores the human experience through his remarkably inventive humanoid creations rendered in oil pigment and pencil on canvas at Taylor Bercier Fine Art. As schematic as architectural blueprints, yet as fantastical as visionary Victorian-era inventions, his marionette-like figures blur the boundaries between human role-playing and mechanical or structural engineering. In Amores Paralelos, a mechanistic male and female duo appear lost in their own little worlds as they play cellos that also are their torsos. In La Identidad, a human head takes the form of archaic machinery and mysterious numerological diagrams in what amounts to an alchemical exploration of the human potential, or perhaps an algorithmic schematic of the imagination. — D. Eric Bookhardt

Sliver: New Paintings by Sandy Chism

Through April 14

Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400a Julia St., 522-5471; www.jonathanferraragallery.com

Soliloquy: New Work by Carlos Estevez

Through April 14

Taylor Bercier Fine Art, 233 Chartres St., 527-0072; www.taylorbercier.com

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