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Brantley Ellzey's True Religion, Sacred and Profane and Paul Tarver's Tactus 

We think of this as the age of globalism, but conflicts between the local and the global are not new. For Brantley Ellzey, who grew up in the Deep South, the clash between pop culture and old-time religion is an ongoing interest. What the two have in common is an emphasis on iconic imagery, which Ellzey uses as the basis for his elaborate constructions. Madonna (pictured) suggests an altar, but not for any blessed virgin. No, it's the material girl herself as she appeared in colorful magazine photos framed by an elaborate abstract grid of colorful round pencils arranged at right angles reminiscent of Mondrian's modernist paintings. In Hell, another grid looks chaotic as bunches of askew pencils frame antique engravings of demons. Order returns in Heaven, a minimal white grid that is almost oppressive in its regimented regularity, while Adam, a human form constructed entirely from pencils, stands as fatefully stoic as the Burning Man effigy. But more than any particular theme, the intricate inventiveness of these constructions is the basis of their seductive intrigue.

  Paul Tarver has long experimented with elaborate geometric forms as the basis of his densely textured paintings, most notably in works featuring muted colors and forms not unlike the lettering of ancient Celtic manuscripts. This time around, the antiquated wall paintings he encountered in Rome and Pompeii sparked his imagination. In Toto is emblematic, a pastiche of serpentine curves and diagonal grids reminiscent of French Quarter ironwork. Overlaying those sinewy lines is a dense patina of drips and splatters like something left by Jackson Pollock's ghost. It's a dynamic seen in many of the other works as well, so we are left with a sense of the ancient and the modern engaged in a kind of conceptual embrace, a temporal tango as eternal as the ebb and flow of the tides. — D. Eric Bookhardt

True Religion, Sacred and Profane: Constructions by Brantley Ellzey

Through May

Soren Christensen Gallery, 400 Julia St., 569-9501; www.sorengallery.com

Tactus: New Oil and Encaustic Paintings by Paul Tarver

Through May

Cole Pratt Gallery, 3800 Magazine St., 891-6789; www.coleprattgallery.com

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