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Stephanie Saint Sanchez has made good use of those four big pillars in the middle of Lawndale's main gallery. She wrapped black plastic around them and created a screening room for her oddball collection of videos. There's a nostalgic kid's-clubhouse feeling to the installation. She's cut out and pasted wonky letters on the outside, telling viewers, "Come on in, the show's about to start." The series of videos is interspersed with a lot of great vintage promos touting snacks or introducing a show. The videos themselves are uneven, but there is so much goofy exuberance, you kind of don't care. The funniest ones are a fake commercial for the "Mexican Suitcase" -- a black plastic garbage bag -- and "Un Plato Ms," a supposed trip down memory lane to dinner at grandma's house that ends with a Night of the Living Dead-type scene in which grandmothers chant "abuelas unidas" as they chase after the family car with leftovers.

Donna Huanca presents a funky, ambitious installation with giant marionettes and a wall mural; there's a craftsy yet Mad Max feeling to the project. The marionettes, made of scraps of cast-off clothing, are apparently some sort of band. Behind them is a revolutionary with a bandolier. Along a side wall is a giant warscape, including tanks and a mosque, also made from old clothes as well as liberal amounts of multicolored carpet padding. Huanca has pieced together some previously separate works for the installation. The multiple ideas feel a little muddled -- they need to be cleaned out or jumbled up more, but Huanca's inventive use of materials carries the day.


Wonderfully crackpot: Zach Moser's Kool-Aid water tower.
Courtesy of DiverseWorks
Wonderfully crackpot: Zach Moser's Kool-Aid water tower.

Details

"Core Artists-in-Residence Exhibition"

Through April 20.

"Working It Out: Studio Program Residents"

Through April 14.

"Artadia at DiverseWorks...Reprised: The Artadia Awardees"

Through April 21.

"Core Artists-in-Residence Exhibition"

Glassell School of Art, 5101 Montrose,713-639-7500.

"Working It Out: Studio Program Residents"

Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, 713-528-5858.

"Artadia at DiverseWorks...Reprised: The Artadia Awardees"

DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346.

Artadia Awards don't provide studio space, but they give out the most cash and provide the most national exposure. From 150 to 200 applicants, Artadia selects 15 awardees; ten of them get $1,500 each, and five get $15,000. Unlike a lot of cash awards to artists, the Artadia Awards are unrestricted lump sums; artists don't have to report to the organization how they spend the money. They can use it to buy beer or health insurance or fix their truck. On top of that, Artadia works with past and present awardees to provide a "national network of support." One past Artadia awardee believes the honor was crucial in getting her into the Whitney Biennial. (Chrissie Isles, a previous Artadia juror, was a cocurator of the 2006 Biennial.)

Work from the 15 awardees for 2006 is on view at DiverseWorks in "Artadia at DiverseWorks...Reprised." Former Core fellow Rotem Balva has a beautifully absurd video of a woman trying to park between two closely spaced cars. Shot from overhead, it shows her circling a roundabout and making attempts to back in between two cars. She repeatedly rams her vehicle into them, finally wedging the car in and exiting the car through the windshield.

Among the five $15,000 prizewinners, there are some wonderfully crackpot objects. Look up as you head into DiverseWorks. You'll notice a giant water tower in the shape of the "Hey Kool-Aid!" pitcher guy. Inside the main gallery is a Kool-Aid-filled water fountain and a poster advertising Zach Moser's "Kool-Aid Network," a goofball scheme to integrate Kool-Aid into the water supply.

Rachel Hecker presents massive -- and oh-so-realistic -- sculptures of charcoal briquettes. Dangling above them is a giant tree-shaped car air freshener. She continues to monumentalize the mundane, with a massive painting of a pink message pad -- "somebody" is scrawled on it as the caller.

Jamal Cyrus, a 2006 Whitney Biennial participant, contributed a velvet-lined instrument case containing a "pipe bomb" made out of trumpet valves and faux plastique. It's witty but edgy, an accessory for a jazz suicide bomber.

Being an artist doesn't come with a salary, office and benefits, and, depending on the kind of work, overhead can be pretty high. That's why programs like these are crucial.

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