Capsule Art Reviews: "AES+F," "Chantal Akerman: Moving Through Time and Space," "Death and Shit Like That," "Gratitude, There's No Competition," "Jac Leirner," " Perspectives 159: Superconscious, Automatisms Now"

"AES+F" AES+F is a Russian art powerhouse comprised of Tatiana Arzamasova, a conceptual architect; Lev Evzovitch, a conceptual architect and filmmaker; Evgeny Svyatsky, a graphic artist; and Vladimir Fridkes, a fashion photographer for the likes of Vogue. The group combine their diverse skills to spectacular effect: Their work is slick, smart and infused with a sense of the macabre. Three phenomenal installations by the collaborative are on view at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art in "AES+F," curated by Olga Sviblova. The installation Suspects: Seven Sinners and Seven Righteous (1997) contains large photographs of 14 teenage girls. Seven of them are convicted murderers, and seven are ordinary Moscow high school students. AES+F doesn't tell you who's who. The portraits are all taken the same way; they're head-on, mug shot-like images against a white background. Ultimately, anybody could be anything, the series seems to say. The photographic series Defile (2000-2007) presents seven life-size images of people clad in avant-garde fashions. You might think it's just Fridkes exercising his fashion-photography skills — until you notice the models' sunken eyes, crudely stitched autopsy scars and rigor mortis. AES+F shot pictures of unidentified corpses at the morgue and then digitally clad them in edgy fashion. It's a provocative strategy, and showing big pictures of dead people has a creepy allure. Last Riot (2007) is the centerpiece of the exhibition. This apocalyptic three-screen video presents a surreal, digitally animated panorama of the end of the world. It's a tour de force, a dark and intensely contemporary vision. Through February 29. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900. — KK

"Chantal Akerman: Moving Through Time and Space" This show at the Blaffer Gallery will quietly blow away just about any video installation you have ever seen. Chantal Akerman is a filmmaker who creates video installations filled with cinematic power. She has been called "the most important European director of her generation." The standout of the show is From the East: Bordering on Fiction, (D'est: Au bord de la fiction). It's a 1995 film Akerman shot in East Germany, Poland, the Baltic States and Russia shortly after the fall of communism. It's not really a documentary; it's not fiction; and it doesn't have much of a narrative. Akerman says she "filmed everything that touched me," simply turning her camera on the people and cities, but the results are mesmerizing. The amazing panorama of images are everyday but somehow extraordinary. Unfortunately, there's a problem with acoustics in this show. They're at their worst in Akerman's installation Down There (Là-bas) (2006). This is a more straightforward, single-channel projection on one wall shot by Akerman in Tel Aviv when she was there teaching. Most of the film was shot through the windows of the furnished apartment she had rented; you feel a sense of depression, a sense of confinement and isolation. She reveals herself through precious clues provided by occasional narration, but the problem is, you can't freakin' hear those precious clues. The Blaffer has always been a difficult space; in general the acoustics are terrible. A tremendous amount of effort went into arranging this exhibition — I wish more effort had gone into mediating the acoustic problems. Through March 29. 120 Fine Arts Building, entrance #16 off Cullen Blvd., University of Houston, ­­713-743-­­9530. — KK

"Death and Shit Like That" This gathering of drawings at Domy Books shows Houston street artist YAR! has many friends who can tug the heart with just the flick of a pen. Curator YAR! communicates regularly with these prolific, inspiring artists — who hail from the Netherlands, Spain, France, Argentina, Massachusetts, Houston and Florida — on the Web site Flickr. There are clear connections between these works that transcend locale. Local artist Seth Alverson's ominous painting of an open coffin looms over the show, but the walls are covered in a smattering of smaller works on paper. There are the sensuous watercolors and disembodied dream world of Ola Vasiljeva; more concrete figures by Stéphane Prigent and Frédéric Fleury, cartoonish bodies with layers of loose color and rivulets of clashing pigment; and Irana Douer's beautifully simple female face with pursed lips and closed eyes, copied over and over in different poses in simple line drawings and cut paper. Matt Lock and Dean Sullivan create deeply emotional and paranoid compositions of skulls, bodies and sex with awkward outsider flatness. And Mark Hesterlee uses tribal rituals and pop references in his humorous marker-and-pen drawings. While death figures prominently in many of these artists' styles, they seem more alive than anything. Through March 15. 1709 Westheimer, 713-523-3669. — SC

"Gratitude, There's No Competition" The fruits of our daydreams — those casual doodles on the edges of TPS reports and torn bits of paper scattered across the office floor — are products of the unrestrained creative mind. Katie Kahn's art explores the down time in our crowded lives. At Joan Wich & Co. Gallery, she's showing a series of works drawn and painted directly onto pages of The New York Times. The images and words already present on the page become part of her compositions, and the news of the day adds substance and irony to her archetypal figures. In surreal group portraits, half-ink, half-photograph figures emerge out of fields of wispy Wite-Out brushstrokes. Hatch marks and hybrid characters switch fields between background and foreground. Kahn's work is full of evocative references and accidental genius. Through March 1. 4411 Montrose, 713-526-1551. — SC

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