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Yin and Yang

Three Chinese artists bring their separate world visions

Zhang Jian-Jun takes a somewhat longer view of things. For Vestige of a Process, Houston Project 2002-2023 (2002-2003), Houstonians were invited to pick a site that, for them, personified Houston. A photograph was taken and printed using a process that ensures the photo will gradually fade away over the next 20 years. Zhang then added a painted element -- an elevation to a roof, a bulge to a building -- to render the photo more abstract. In 20 years, only the abstraction will remain of the image, at which time the artist invites someone to return to these sites and photograph them again, continuing the process on into the indefinite future. Given the record of preservation in this town, it seems a particularly quixotic project. But paired with the artist's 2000 Years in Motion, 200 B.C. -- 2003 A.D. (2003), perhaps it'll get folks thinking more about time and history. Three photographs of ruins, again with painted additions, are almost lost on the gallery walls. You're also distracted by the three columnar sculptures, made of silicon and set on motorized wheeled bases, that wander randomly in the space, bouncing off walls and continuing on their absurd journey. Each column is a facsimile of a column in the photographs, and each is topped with a piece of Han Dynasty (202 B.C. -- 220 A.D.) crockery, to marry past and present and produce a humorous and dizzying meditation on time's inexorable passage and our own emphemerality.

Zhang has two related pieces at Barbara Davis. Blue Mountain and White Mountain (both 2003) are large silicon castings of a scholar's rock. These rocks, kept by the Chinese literati in their studies as contemplative tools, suggest fantastic and timeless landscapes. Cast in silicon, their timelessness is wedded to a weird contemporaneity, as Zhang vaults not only a temporal gulf but an aesthetic one as well.

Through June 14 at DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346.

Artist Zhang Huan sits among the pagodas while red foam runs down his torso.
Artist Zhang Huan sits among the pagodas while red foam runs down his torso.

Through May 31 at Barbara Davis Gallery, 5701 Main, 713-520-9200.

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