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Art Capsule Reviews

A picture of our opinions on local exhibitions

"Black, White, a Little Yellow" This group show keeps the volume low and the personality high with a mix of small drawings and paintings. Exquisitely detailed drawings by Rabe'a Ballin depict intricate women's hairstyles. Jeff Yerger references animal, mechanical and wooden structures woven together in light graphite. B. Moss gives the show some color with his expressive lithography prints, along with newer, exacting landscapes. Basilios Poulos reprises his work from last month's exhibit of nudes; he also brings out a wonderful sketch to contextualize his process. Martha Thomas contributes some solemn black-and-white photographs, while Helmut Barnett steals the show with a sexually charged ink drawing of body parts with painterly brushstrokes. Through June 30. Joan Wich & Co. Gallery, 4411 Montrose, 713-526-1551. — SC

City Glow Self-styled Pop Art star Chiho Aoshima emerged out of the "factory" art group founded in Tokyo in the late '90s by Takashi Murakami. Her computer-generated images reference manga comics and anime cartoons, with wide-eyed characters and line drawings. Like Murakami, Aoshima believes in the contributions pop genres have made to the art world at large. Tucked away underground in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Chiho Aoshima's installation City Glow (2005) sits behind a cafe and next to the escalators. Don't feel bad for her, though: James Terrell's The Light Inside tunnel and Damien Hirst's installation End Game are good company in the basement. The cyclical piece is told through a five-screen animated video of telescoping layers that comments on deteriorating climate conditions. Plants, animals and anthropomorphic skyscrapers grow, bloom and die throughout the course of the seven-minute piece, perhaps predicting the death of civilization as the balanced world of the opening scenes mutates into a nightmare apocalypse set in a blood-red graveyard. Highly recommended for Nipponophiles or anyone bored with painting and sculpture. Through September 29. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300. — SC

"Dick Wray" This amiable artist has been exhibiting his dense paintings for 50 years, ever since he graduated from the University of Houston back in 1958. In vibrant abstract work, he drops hints of figures but obscures them with emotional brush strokes and scratched lines. Channeling an urgency, Wray's work is naive yet sculptured. He uses a palette of complementary combinations, occasionally dripping and splattering his energetic patterns and shapes. Here his work is painterly and bright, with collage and transferred images in some works. Previous incarnations at the Station in 2004 and ArtScan in 2000 employed obscene black-ink doodles and printed canvases layered in paint, but Wray is consistent in his appreciative homage to the abstract expressionists of the mid-20th century. Through July 7. Wade Wilson Art, 4411 Montrose, 713-521-2977. — SC

"Julie Green: The Last Supper" We're No. 1! That Texas leads the country in executions — 394 since 1976 — probably isn't news to most of you, but it makes Julie Green's installation at DiverseWorks especially relevant. Green painstakingly paints little still-lifes of inmates' last meals on hundreds of plates. At DiverseWorks, she has covered the wall with them. At first glance, Green's installation looks like an over-the-top display by some obsessive decorative plate collector. Then you notice the delicate renderings of French fries and chicken-fried steak, and you realize this isn't a product of the Franklin Mint. The plates, in various sizes and shapes and with a variety of border patterns, create the feeling of a group of individuals. Green's work currently numbers 234 plates and spans 21 states. She culls her last-meal information from newspaper accounts of executions. Using blue pigment on a random assortment of white china, Green paints delicate images onto the surface. The paint goes on thick and Vaseline-y, but looks like watercolor after it's fired. There is something pretty poignant about all of these plates, partly because food is something we all have in common. That you and a death row inmate both love barbecued pork ribs somehow humanizes that person. Looking at them, you wonder what horrible things these people did, but you also have to wonder, were any of these last meals eaten by innocent people? How many of them were eaten by someone like Arkansas inmate Ricky Rector, a mentally retarded man who saved part of the pecan pie from his last meal for a post-execution snack? Through June 23. 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346. — KK

"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. — SC

 
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