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"Jac Leirner" Petty theft plays an integral part in many of Brazilian artist Jac Leirner's works. Corpus Delicti (1992/2006) includes stolen ashtrays, laminated boarding passes and pilfered airline cutlery, all linked together into an oddball charm bracelet. The piece makes the artist seem part magpie, part obsessive-compulsive. Corpus Delicti (sickness bags) (1992) is part of the same series. Leirner neatly filled 20 airline barf bags with blocks of Styrofoam and strung them all together; they hang from the ceiling in a curving line of multicolored rectangles. While the ashtrays speak to a bratty kleptomania, the accumulation of airsickness bags seems much more about OCD. The feeling of OCD is overpowering in Leirner's nicotine-related works. She started smoking at age 11 and only recently gave it up. During her smoking years, cigarette packaging provided her with a constant and daily source of material. Lung (1987), on view in the Roesch exhibition, is a small, rectangular Plexiglas box that hangs unobtrusively on the wall, filled with fragile cellophane husks from the artist's cigarette packs. The pristine object vies with the viewer's mental image of blackened lungs. Leirner's cigarette-pack works are exacting records of addiction, with the damage elegantly implied. Leirner has said she tries "to find a place for things that don't have a place," and this show offers a bite-size sample of her works. While some of the pieces on view at Gallery Sonja Roesch may lack the power of the artist's more epic projects, Leirner's very particular sensibilities shine through. Through March 1. 2309 Caroline, 713-659-5424. — KK

"Perspectives 159: Superconscious, Automatisms Now" This exhibition is comprised of paintings, sculptures, drawings, photography and video by five artists who employ free association in their work. Many of the pieces display an obsessive degree of self-alertness. Sean Landers's Dumb Dumb (from 1993) is a vast horizontal canvas with lines and lines of writing that can be literally tiring to read because of the walking required. And even then, there's just no use. It's more fun to just pick out random snippets. Much of it is boring and repetitive; Landers vacillates between declaring himself the greatest artist on Earth and lamenting his worthlessness. Peppered with sex, Dumb Dumb will occasionally reveal a line like "JOHN, KEVIN AND I JUST FINISHED A BIG DISCUSSION ON '70S NIPPLES." Danica Phelps's drawings carry a similar confessional vibe, but with a filter. Her meticulous vertical calendars document weeks of her life in 2006 down to the minute. Quickly glanced, the works feel numbingly banal. But look closer at Phelps's thin, spidery handwriting, and the narrative begins to emerge. Large chunks of red denote money spent on sperm and insemination. Phelps and her girlfriend, referred to here as "D," are trying to have a child, and they're not exactly on the same page about it. They argue, make love, go to therapy and have the occasional knock-down-drag-out. The exhibit includes sculpture and photography by Rachel Harrison and a 23-minute film by Oliver Payne and Nick Relph. Big surprise, though: The free-associative elements of imagery just aren't as powerfully communicated as they are in words, something rare for visual art. How often do you leave a museum reeling from something you read, rather than what you "saw"? Through March 9. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250. — TS

Capsule reviews by Sean Carroll, Kelly Klaasmeyer, and Troy Schulze

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