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The Good, the Bad and the Humidity

Eleven artists work up a show about Houston past and present

Other works in the show hone in on the stories of individuals. Carrie Markello presents the residents of her Montrose neighborhood in Inside the Loop: Stories from a Houston Neighborhood (Barry and Laura, Bill and Jesse, Eric and Carol, Mark and Laura, Muriel, Vernon and Kay) (2003). Markello has set a dining table for six. Viewers sit in chairs and listen to headphones at each place setting. (Locating the play button on the CD player mounted under the table takes a bit of trial and error.) Each place setting represents the story of a different neighbor, all narrated by Markello.

There is Muriel, an obsessive- compulsive hermit who refused to throw anything away. She lived on layers of newspaper and mail. She said it was because she heard about a murder linked to the murderer finding an address in the trash. Another couple on the street moved into Montrose long before the area's recent "gentrification" of synthetic stucco town homes. Then it had the reputation of being the exclusive domain of hippies and homosexuals. The couple raised their sons in Montrose, on the wrong side of the tracks for Little League. The kids were teased about their neighborhood. The parents wondered if they should have moved south of 59, but for them, the highway marked a kind of sociopolitical dividing line that they refused to cross.

At the opening, people sat together at the dining table like a family, albeit a family wearing headphones. There are some glitches in the work: The paintings under the clear glass plates are unnecessary, and some of the narratives are decidedly more interesting than others. But Markello has presented an intriguing oral history of her tiny section of Marshall Street and its evolution. It also serves as a reminder of the millions of other untold stories Houston has to offer.

Bubble Gum (2003) shows young Islamic girls in a bedroom.
Courtesy of Lawndale Art Center
Bubble Gum (2003) shows young Islamic girls in a bedroom.

Details

Through October 11; 713-528-5858.
Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main

Anonymous, found ephemera are the subject of Linda Hayward's work Bookmarks: Second to None Resale Shop, Westheimer Road, Houston (2003). In her statement in the exhibition catalog, Hayward says, "I love to read, and spend (too much) time browsing the dusty bookshelves of Houston' thrift stores in search of good deals." In those books she has found an odd assortment of bookmarks. She entombs the objects in clear resin books and displays them in groups of three along the wall.

There is a postcard from Casablanca, a five-by-seven black-and-white photo of a plump, melancholy young woman clad in '70s-era crocheted vest and checked polyester pants. You wonder: Who is she? How did her picture end up in a used bookstore? Was it missed? In a collection of bookmarks from the Methodist Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop, a neatly written note signed with a smiley face discusses a drug trade, and a clipped-out Heloise column describes how to keep sweaters from stretching after you wash them. (FYI: Thread a broom handle through the arms.)

Photographers Soody Sharifi and Michael Kahlil Taylor tell Houston stories through photographs. Sharifi's color photographs record young Islamic women in American society. In Bubble Gum (2003), girls lounge in a bedroom, their heads covered with scarves. In a closet door mirror we see a young girl blowing a big pink bubble. Two other girls lounge on the bed; one admires herself in a hand mirror, another is about to have her nails painted bright red. Above the bed is an exotic, Persian-looking image of two elaborately garbed figures. Underneath it is a hokey Mary Engelbreit-style poster that declares, "Home Is Where the Heart Is." Cultures blend in the crucible of a teenage girl's bedroom.

Taylor uses digital photography to blend existing images. He manages to do it with a fair amount of restraint and selectivity in his Grand Memories Series (2003). (Houston seems to be overrun with kitchen-sink digital photographs that toss everything in, just because they can.) Taylor's could be pared down slightly more, but he has some choice juxtapositions, as when the images of a woman as an adult and as a toddler overlap, sharing an eye. Throughout the series of four photographs, the panes of a window remain a constant. We have the sense of generations looking forward and backward in time. We don't know who the people are, but Taylor combines them in a way that makes us want to know.

A small catalog accompanies the show, with essays by the artists. One of them, Marlo Saucedo, even presents a history of air-conditioning.

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