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Forging Ahead 

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In the dog days of summer, evening lows bottom out at 80 degrees and the sky's the limit for the highs. Most people try to stay air-conditioned. Rachel David heads for her blacksmith forge, where metal is heated until it glows red — hotter than Hades — and yields to the persuasion of blunt instruments. A bon vivant and workaholic who has focused more on private commissions, she should become better known with her first solo show at Coup d'Oeil Art Consortium, an agglomeration of delicately poetic heavy metal baroque dadaism with the occasional art nouveau flourish. Although there are some useful objects like tables and picture frames (with collaborative photos and woodwork by Jayme Kalal and Jesse Stotzfus), the metal sculptures are the main course here. The title piece, Mouth Environment, is a wall-mounted bas relief with elaborate filigree and surface effects including scallops like eye sockets, or orifices for unknown biological functions, and the effect is somehow simultaneously medieval, art nouveau and extraterrestrial. Many of the freestanding sculptures such as Tethered (pictured) allude to this city's pervasively sinewy vines and botanical life. Stylistically, they fall somewhere between belle epoque Paris and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but in David's hands the effect is organic, holistic and often elegant. If it's hard to know exactly what she's doing, it's fair to say she does it thoroughly, arduously and with a finely wrought flair.

  Although he also works in metal, Mitchell Lonas' Wrench Series is very different. Inspired by swallows' nests he found in the Smoky Mountains, Lonas developed a technique for delicately incising painted metal with abrasives to achieve a similarly gossamer effect in the creation of a series of nests. Shimmering like fiber optics, they challenge the viewer to provide his or her own answers to what is real and what is illusion, what is nature and what is artifice, what is life and what is art. — D. Eric Bookhardt

Rachel David: Mouth Environment

Through Sept. 25

Coup d'Oeil Art Consortium, 2033 Magazine St., 722-0876; www.coupdoeilartconsortium.com

Mitchell Lonas: The Wrench Series

Through Sept. 25

Gallery Bienvenu, 518 Julia St., 525-0518; www.gallerybienvenu.com

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