"Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective" Rauschenberg's credentials as one of the world's leading contemporary visualists have never been in question, so why are the first words from the lips of so many art aficionados "He's never been one of my favorite artists"? The question lingers in the air, despite the quality of the Texas native's work in general and of this specific exhibit. A potential answer: "By fusing and intermingling painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking and performance, Rauschenberg has become the preeminent practitioner of breaking down the barriers among art-making genres and methods," says exhibit co-curator Walter Hopps of the Menil Collection. That's one way -- a stuffy, curatorial-speak kind of way -- of saying that Rauschenberg is the ultimate mixed-media artist. For us, the lay viewers who confront this stuff with untrained but critical eyes, it seems Rausch has bebopped crazily, fitfully, through the realms listed above, with additional pit stops in abstract expressionism, assemblage, pop art, high-res digital, etc. (The brochure accompanying the exhibit terms Rauschenberg's tendency to aggressively overbook his muse "thoughtful inclusion.") Trying to get a fix on the legend of Port Arthur is like trying to stop an ice cream cone from melting away in the sticky heat of a summer afternoon in Rauschenberg's hometown, and some of us have grown exhausted (and hungry) from the effort. But the going just got easier thanks to "A Retrospective," organized by New York's Guggenheim Museum. The ode to Rauschenberg's 50 years in art puts his artistic restlessness into context, and does so in a largely linear fashion, allowing the hushed din -- the delicate, thundering static -- of his vision to filter through the self-generated shock waves of a career spent on the cutting edge(s). The exhibit, the first-ever collaboration between Houston's big-three public art trusts, is best experienced in this order: the Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross, 525-9400; the Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose, 284-8250; and the Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. It opens with a free preview/reception for Rauschenberg from 6 to 10 p.m.; gratis shuttles ferry patrons between facilities. The exhibit's up through May 17 (see Thrills for more info).
The Rolling Stones We dubbed these dudes the "Rolling Bones" nearly a decade ago, during the Steel Wheels tour, and our cynicism has continued to balloon along with the group's collective prostate. Fine wine and mountain ranges age well; gallon jugs of Night Train and British rock bands don't. The Stones are now as old as the hills but not half so wise, if their latest disc, Bridges to Babylon, is any indication; their last album to share space in the same sentence with the word "greatness" was Tattoo You in 1981. So what's the lingering attraction? As advertised, the Stones were the "World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band" for the first half of their 35-year existence, and they've earned the right -- at least in their minds -- to piddle away the remainder by releasing a passable album every few years and doing a spectacle-filled support tour. Fleetwood Mac's recent reunion was mostly about cash flow, no matter how much the members yakked about musical integrity and resuscitated synchronicity, and so are the more frequent rebandings by the Stones. But, hey, it's your money. Jonny Lang opens. 7:30 tonight and the same time Friday. Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza, 961-9003. $40.25-$126.25 (Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
Pan-Cultural Film Festival The second edition of this festival, which continues through Sunday at various locations, features a special focus on Mexican cinema. This week's highlight is tonight's gala screening of Rojo Amanecer ("Red Sunrise"), a 1989 film about the Tlatelolco student massacre of 1968 by Mexico's Jorge Fons Perez, who will be on hand to present the piece in its Houston debut. Other scheduled Bayou City premieres include Luis Argueta's El Silencio de Neto ("The Silence of Neto") (Guatemala, 1994), Luis Alberto Lamata's Jerico (Venezuela, 1990) and Charles Burnett's NightJohn (USA, 1996). Rice Media Center, Rice University entrance 8 (off University Boulevard), 527-4853; the Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300; Talento Bilingue de Houston, 2115 Runnels, 222-1213; Farish Hall at the University of Houston, UH entrance 13, 743-5010. More info: 527-9548. $5-$50.
"Bolo Round-Up" The national neckwear of Texas actually originated in Arizona, more or less (these haute-couture border disputes can get heated). Anyhow, the sun-addled heathens out west call the string tie with the variable clasp a "bola," and while many dictionaries side with the cactus heads on this matter, we Texans know the truth -- and without havin' to look it up, neither. A passel of jewelers and metalsmiths present unconventional takes on the nontraditional garb in this show, opening today; a reception's slated for 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday (for more info, see Thrills). Artables, 2625 Colquitt, 528-0405. Free.
Mardi Gras! Galveston: "The Big Speakeasy" The largest Mardi party in the Lone Star State reinvests Galveston -- known as the "Queen of the Gulf" in its heady, naughty heyday -- with a vestige of its former glory. Flappers on the Seawall? Gangsters and their molls at the Galvez? Once the norm, such sightings now seem as odd as one of a Scotsman in full kilt and kit strangling the bagpipes in the surf beneath the sagging Balinese Room, but we got an eyeful (and earful) of the latter mere weeks ago; Galveston's just that kind of a place. Expect a big bellyful of the "Charleston" era as the isle pays tribute to the Roaring '20s during its 14th annual commemoration of the pre-Lent celebration of satiation. The 12-day fest opens today and continues through February 24 (Fat Tuesday). This week's highlights include the Mystic Krewe of Aquarius Mardi Gras Parade, the Zanie Processional, the Pinstripe Pasquinade, King Gambrinus's "Valentines of the World" Parade, the Postoffice Promenade and concerts by Chuck Berry and New Orleans's Wild Magnolias. The Seawall and the Strand, (888) GAL-ISLE. Many events are free; tickets ($10) are required for admission to the Strand district from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and the same hours February 21.