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Capsule Art Reviews; "Juan Andres Videla: The Unsaid Word," "Machines, Buildings and Books," "Proscenia," "We the People..."

"Juan Andres Videla: The Unsaid Word" Argentine artist Juan Andres Videla presents old-school oil paintings on canvas in "The Unsaid Word" at New Gallery. The artist's soft focus, moody urban scenes and barren institutional interiors are unpeopled. Night dominates the work, with a dog, his eyes glowing in the dark, as one of the few signs of life. The paintings have a film-noir quality, but they somehow feel more warm than ominous. Two small drawings on Formica are especially nice. The images of wet, bleak streets are quietly melancholy. It's a large but slightly uneven show; there are almost 30 works on view, and some weaker pieces could have been edited out for a tighter exhibition. This isn't the kind of show that turns the art world on its head, but the work is satisfying. It's refreshing to see a traditional approach to painting that doesn't feel traditional. Through November 29. 2627 Colquitt, 713-520-7053. — KK

"Machines, Buildings and Books" Austin-based artist Lance Letscher utilizes bookbindings, old ledgers and journals, and miscellaneous paper ephemera to create both abstract collages and representational imagery, much of it exuding an innocent, childlike perspective. How to Lay an Egg, for example, employs two large, thick books (spines back to back) over which Letscher has arranged both circular and rectangular strips from covers of children's Little Golden Books. The colorful designs resemble Tinkertoy contraptions. Shards of light cardboard from album covers seem to decorate more adult-like works (also created with enormous books) like Two-Part Biography and Intermediate Design. The former is decorated in a vertical rectangular pattern, while the latter incorporates intricate, circular pie shapes. Little Twombly-esque doodles inhabit works like Giant Robot, while scraps of coloring books occupy realistic renderings, as in Blue Staircase. Railroad tracks are a recurring motif, as in Roundhouse, which also includes smokestacks spewing abstract conglomerations of blue and brown smoke. The seemingly antique quality of the materials, coupled with fleeting allusions to Germany, gives some works a feeling of childlike obliviousness to evil. Through November 29. McMurtrey Gallery, 3508 Lake, 713-523-8238. — TS

"Proscenia" This summer, Dust, Mark Fox's installation for the window wall of Rice University's Rice Gallery, presented a raucous tangle of drawings in which the artist had attempted to draw everything he owned. In his current show in the entry of Devin Borden Hiram Butler Gallery, Fox's work is a much more quiet and delicate endeavor, but he's still excising drawings from the page. Using drawing media ranging from brightly colored pencils to metallic inks, Fox has drawn irregular networks of rectangles and then cut around the slender marks. Their tiny geometric shapes are discretely taped into a wonky grid and hung from slender wires extending from the gallery walls. The drawn lines become ethereal and seem to float in the air, hovering just over the surface of the wall. It's a seemingly simple idea, but the effect is absolutely riveting. Through December 24. 4520 Blossom Street, 713-863-7097. — KK

"We the People..." Soody Sharifi's work is the standout of this exhibition of works that explore various aspects of the immigrant experience. Here, Sharifi, known for her digital photographs updating traditional Persian painting, is pushing her work in a less aestheticized, more in-your-face direction. She has dotted two walls with photographs of young American Muslims in various situations, straddling two worlds as they play basketball and hang out with friends. The women in her photographs wear stylish sunglasses with their hijab. The walls the photographs hang on are plastered with the kinds of one-liners you see on T-shirts or bumper stickers, but they're all from a Muslim perspective. Mining various sources, including Facebook, Sharifi dug up lines like, "Yes, I'm an American. How did you guess?" There's also "Is your dad a terrorist? Because you are the bomb" and "What do Islam and Capitalism have in common? A fundamental belief in profits." Another reads, "Is it me or is it getting a little Halal in here?" It's the kind of thing a Muslim Shecky Greene might utter. Putting a snarky spin on stereotypes, Sharifi introduces the modernity and humor often lacking in depictions of Muslims in pop culture. Through December 27. The Art League Houston, 1952 Montrose Blvd., 713-523-9530. — KK

 
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