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Art Capsule Reviews

A picture of our opinions on local exhibitions

"Allison Hunter: New Animals" "New Animals" is a continuation of Allison Hunter's "Simply Stunning" series, which showed at New York's 511 Gallery last year. The Houston-based photographer's recent work concentrates largely on animals, and the images reflect a progression toward emancipating creatures from the worldly environment. Sheep and deer inhabit pinkish-gray realms that resemble threatening desert sandscapes, and yet the animals' tameness and passivity feel amplified, more so than if they were depicted in a natural setting. Some photos feature lone animals encased in blackness, like Untitled 10, in which a sole chicken, brightly illuminated by an unknown source, stalks the ground for food against almost invisible traces of its farm environment. In Untitled 7, a miniature horse proudly sports its red saddle (unencumbered by screaming children, maybe?) below a starless void. The effect is a kind of Usher Syndrome -- a condition in which the deaf develop an encroaching blindness -- of nature and logic, except in Hunter's world circumstances aren't in disorder. On the contrary, the animals seem right at home in their non-universe. Though August 17. MKG Art Management, 2825 Colquitt, 713-526-4146.

"Jason Young" Jason Young has some ridiculously lush work on view at Wade Wilson Art. Young uses the hell out of translucent resin, creating paintings coated with slab-like layers of the stuff. For his current work, Young poured it over a background of crumpled metallic foil-like material. Light passes through the resin, tinted in arctically cool blues, greens and purples, and reflects off the underlying material. The effect is otherworldly, like the view from inside a glacier; the paintings feel like they are one the verge of shattering into crystalline shards. Through May 31. Wade Wilson Art, 4411 Montrose Blvd., 713-521-2977.

"LU" It sure is nice to see so much work by Paul Kittelson these days. The group show "LU" at the ArtCar Museum presents several of the artist's great works from the past two years. Kittelson has cast a truck in papier-mâché; it stands perilously, thanks to the good graces of a small wooden armature. This wry inversion sets the tone of the rest of his work, whether it's life-size or super-size. Several six-foot cigarettes, a gigantic kernel of popcorn and other sculptures dominate the main gallery. These works converse with Carter Ernst's giant housefly-obsessed art. Ernst's largest fly eyes an oversize powdered doughnut by Kittelson; drawings of flies line the walls behind sculptures of various materials. In the back gallery, a collection of encaustic paintings by Deborah Moore demonstrate the versatility of the marginalized medium once favored by Jasper Johns. Visitors can also view the exhibit of stereoscopic images by Jan Burandt, a nostalgic drawing by David Kidd, Abu Ghraib puppet torture dioramas by Mary Jenewein and a video of Dune Patten in blackface outside the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. But don't just look for art in the galleries -- you can also peruse the parking lot for fresh art cars. Through July 22. 140 Heights Blvd., 713-861-5526.

"Tjukurrpa: Aboriginal Paintings of the Dreamtime: New Works from Ikuntji" On Feagan in the booming West End sits an exotic treat for art lovers in Houston. The works in this exhibition, a group show by artists from the isolated Ikuntji region of Australia's West MacDonnell Mountains, incorporate the traditional stippled designs of Aboriginal bark painting, but also diverge from standardized styles. The flat planes and distorted perspectives, in primary colors with overt outlines, are similar to those of American folk art, depicting life in Ikuntji with their simplified imaginative shapes. In a significant break from stereotypical Aboriginal technique, Daisy Napaltjarri Jugadai paints the surface of her canvases with flat brush strokes depicting real space, at once from above and at eye level. This exhibit is a divergence from the traditional styles of artists from Alice Springs and Amata, deepening our understanding of Australia's diverse community of artists. Through July 12 at Booker-Lowe Gallery, 4623 Feagan St., 713-880-1541.

"Transformation 5: Contemporary Works in Found Materials" Whether it's the transformation of utilitarian objects into sculpture or fabric scraps into a quilt, the allure of "found" art lies in seeing a new value, perspective or form emerge from the ordinary, the banal. "Transformation 5" is a juried exhibition of 30 artists who competed for the prestigious Elizabeth R. Raphael Founders Prize, which recognizes excellence in the field of contemporary craft. The show includes decorative pieces, like Sharon McCartney's series of fabric collages, which overlap mostly green and gray tones and feel very countrified with their recurring bird imagery and lacy edges. There's also wonderful kitsch, like two "robot" sculptures: Toby A. Fraley's Feather Flite Robot and Linda and Opie O'Brien's The Emperor's Scribe. Fraley's is the more space-age one, with its jet-pack and halogen-light head and body made from discarded vacuum pieces. The O'Briens equip their (explicitly male) robot with an open-door torso filled with bric-a-brac: an old aspirin tin, printing blocks, tinker toys and pencils. The abstract pieces on display represent the best of the exhibit, because they demonstrate how fully and mysteriously these everyday objects can be manipulated. Amy Lipshie's Tomb, a strange, four-foot-tall sculpture resembling a foot, was made with woven strips of cereal boxes, beads, nylon thread and varnish. Rainbow-colored, it changes with the spectrum as one circles it. Most audacious is Parable by Jerry Bleem. The stretched and twisted hollow form has been covered in art magazine ads and then encased in staples from top to bottom. The outside emits a metallic gleam while the inside sparkles like quartz crystals. Through June 17 at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main, 713-529-4848.

 
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