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Capsule Reviews

A picture of our opinions on local exhibitions

"Bringing Shadows to Light: Contemporary Argentine Photography" Addressing subjects as diverse as war, the tango and the country's current economic crisis, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston presents a good small survey of contemporary Argentine photography. There are pictures of a man's crude drawings recording the torture he witnessed during the Dirty War (1976--1983). Another image from the period shows a man seated numbly beneath a tree, his eyes, nose and jaw completely covered with bandages. The woman next to him cries out to someone unknown. Meanwhile, a series of black-and-white tango images with a film-noir aesthetic present a moodily romantic vision of the country. An elderly tango master dances with a beautiful young woman; a blurred silver tray of sparkling cocktails balances on a waiter's arm. Other images in lurid color present a harsh pop/political edge, with young Argentines wearing plastic masks of Fidel Castro and the Statue of Liberty. The show gives viewers an interesting range of artists and their takes on their country, its history and culture. Through July 30. 5601 Main, 713-639-7300.

"Fellowship Series XI: Expositions" CACHH's fellowship series exhibitions continue to offer up interesting, bite-size selections of work from its grant recipients. This time the featured artists are Beth Secor, Angela Fraleigh and Darryl Lauster. Secor paints family portraits from old photographs; in an accompanying artist's statement, she relays snippets of crackpot family history that add an extra layer of intrigue to her dour turn-of-the-century faces (e.g., strychnine poisoning). Fraleigh contributed one of her large oil paintings that mix figures with smeared and poured areas of abstract color, but her lesser-known watercolors really upstage it -- their loose and fluid unpretentiousness makes the painting seem uptight. Rounding out the trio is Lauster, whose fascination with historical decorative objects and furniture inspires his sculptures. Here he riffs on 19th-century blue-and-white Transferware china. But instead of bucolic scenes, Lauster's collection of plates depicts events from American history -- the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, a Klan rally, suffragists, atomic blasts -- all ironically edged with charming decorative borders. Through August 3 at Space 125 of the Cultural Arts Council of Houston and Harris County, 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-9330.

"Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds 3: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies" Gunther von Hagens is the creator of the corpse-preservation process known as plastination, in which water and soluble fats are removed from the body and replaced with polymers such as silicone. The process results in lovely, long-lasting and odor-free cadavers! Just what we all were waiting for. The "Body Worlds" exhibition presents the products of von Hagens's process. Health education is the stated goal of the exhibition, and parts of it are really fascinating. It leads in with bones and skeletons, moves on to organs, and then hits you with the full-on corpses. There is informational text with each object, and the audio guide is quite good, giving you scientific information in layman's terms about bones, organs, nerves...This would have made biology class a hell of a lot more interesting. It's when von Hagens tries to get creative with them that things get tacky and questionable. At the entrance to the show, there's a skeleton kneeling with what is identified as a "Teutonic cross." Holding its heart in its hand, the skeleton still has its eyeballs, which goggle heavenward. And this is one of the mildest displays of von Hagens's Germanic tendency toward the macabre and baroque. The really low point is when von Hagens gets all Grimm's Fairy Tales with a figure whose muscle tissue is flayed away from his body, standing out like feathers. He is described as riding an "imaginary broom." Yeah, right: That would be his hands wrapped around his own trachea, standing in as the "broom" handle. Ultimately, von Hagens's P.T. Barnum showmanship overrides the educational aspects of the show. He may have developed this revolutionary method for preserving corpses, but perhaps somebody else should be appointed creative director. Through September 4. Houston Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Dr., 713-639-4629.

 
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