Paid to paint the sides of buildings, billboards, windows and storefronts, Houston's sign painters walk the line between art and advertising. But this month, DiverseWorks is pulling them squarely into the art world. For the "Houston Sign Painters" exhibit, Reginald Adams, Jesse Lott and Israel McCloud will be applying themselves to the subspace gallery's walls and toting in some of their smaller and more portable real-world works. The opening reception is from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight, and the sign show runs through January 9. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 223-8346. Free.
"For Black American men in particular, who have emerged from a history of slavery and segregation, and who continue to be stereotyped and stigmatized, clothing has always served a symbolic purpose," writes Lloyd Boston, V.P. of Art Direction for Tommy Hilfiger U.S.A. and author of the new book Men of Color: Fashion, History, Fundamentals. "What we wear signals where we are and, more important, where we want to be." So Boston has gathered some 300 photographs -- archival shots and celebrity portraits -- to help him trace the history of African-American men's fashion from wild zoot suits to oversized jeans. He stops along the way to critique the outfits of contemporary Black fashion moguls like Wynton Marsalis, Gregory Hines, Jesse Jackson, LL Cool J and Samuel L. Jackson -- and to instruct the reader on how to achieve their respective styles. Boston will be signing and discussing Men of Color at the Shrine Bookstore and Cultural Center, 5309 M.L.K. Blvd., at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 645-1071. Free.
The 34-year-old Burke Baker Planetarium is reopening its doors this weekend with a new dome and an advanced panoramic video application designed to make viewers feel as if they are traveling through space. "SkyVision" corrects the geometric errors in high resolution video that kept us in the planetarium dark ages of static starfields. The high-tech setup can project real-time feeds from NASA and the Hubble Telescope, as well as digital images of rotating black holes and moving comets. One of the first shows to grace the new circular screen is "The Story of the Magi," an astronomical account of the Star of Bethlehem. In celebration of this technological advancement, Orchestra X presents the concert Planet X featuring the entire suite from The Planets by Gustav Holst and digital projections by Dadanet Circus's computer graphic designer Jim Clarage. 7:30 p.m. Fondren Discovery Room, Museum of Natural Science, Hermann Park. For information, call 225-ORCX. Tickets are $27.50 at the door, $23 in advance, $15 for students, and $20 for subscribers; the ticket price includes admission to the planetarium. (Also Friday, Dec. 11.)
The Declaration of Human Rights is celebrating its 50th birthday with lots of people half its age. The Human Rights Festival at Garden in the Heights is an all-day affair starting at noon with local rock bands Klack, the Texas Guinness Lovers, the Jeepneys and Moses Guest; moving through the late afternoon with the funk of Face Plant; continuing into the evening with ska from The Suspects, Los Skarnales and Free Radicals and ending at 2 a.m. after a late-night rave featuring techno music and DJs Rebel Crew and Chris Anderson. If you're bored by one of the bands, you can check out Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre, Kuumba House Dancers, some art cars and the human rights mural created by student artists at M.E.C.A. You might also want to take a moment to sign the declaration that made it all possible. Net proceeds benefit local chapters of Amnesty International. Noon to 2 a.m. Garden in the Heights, 3926 Feagan, 880-1065. $5.
Best known for 1974's Celine and Julie Go Boating, French New Wave director Jacques Rivette films fiction in a down-to-earth documentary style -- thanks, in large part, to scanty scripts. Up/Down/Fragile, playing at the Museum of Fine Arts, is, like many of Rivette's films, largely improvised by the cast. It's the three-hour story of three beautiful women -- one who just woke from a coma, one who just left a life of petty crime and one who just found out she was adopted -- whose lives cosmically cross the path of a brooding artist. Even more interesting: All of them spontaneously break into song and dance at various points throughout the film. 1 p.m. (also December 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m.)Brown Auditorium, MFA, 1001 Bissonnet. For more information, call 639-7515. $5. Hard-core Francophiles will want to swing through "Brassai: The Eye of Paris" ($3) on their way out.
Houston artist Edward Gafford was educated in Mexico City in the early 1960s, which perhaps accounts for his interest in the mysticism of working-class life. His most recent work, "Old Testament Vignettes," on display at Albert Gallery, takes this interest in the metaphysical to a more specific spiritual level. With strong surrealist forms and bold primary colors, Gafford paints his interpretation of biblical stories such as Jacob's deception of his father and the coat of many colors, not to advocate a doctrine, but to meditate on humanity. Through January 10 (opening reception, December 10 at 6 p.m.). Albert Gallery, 2311 Dunlavy, Suite 201, 523-7571. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Neighborhood Christmas lights just can't hold a candle to Angels in the Park -- a 64-scene, 1.25-mile, animated light display from the producers of light projects at Disney World. It's a regular theme park with lighted marvels like elves tossing snowballs, reindeer learning to fly (with parachutes, of course), toy soldiers marching and fawns dancing toward falling snowflakes. 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. weekdays ($15 per carload) and 6 p.m. to midnight weekends ($20 per carload) through January 1. Groeschke Rd., between Barker Cypress and Highway 6. Call 785-5072 for more information.
Zamora the Torture King, a founding member of the original Jim Rose Circus Sideshow (of Lollapalooza and Nine Inch Nails touring fame), first performed his "Human Pincushion" act when he was in grade school. Since then, he's broadened his repertoire to include feats with fire, swords, broken glass and red-hot metal. He's also picked up another couple of "talented" performers: Flex, The Rubber Boy, stretches the limits of contortion and enterology, and strongman "Mighty Jack" Hartley lifts heavy objects with unusual parts of his body. Beware -- Zamora actually made a seen-it-all cameraman faint on the set of Guinness World Records, and his slogan is "More danger for your dollar!" Emo's Wednesday night drink specials ($1.50 shots, well drinks and domestics) should help take the edge off. 11 p.m. Emo's Alternative Lounge, 2700 Albany, 523-8503. Free; under 21, $7.