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Capsule Art Reviews: "Disturbance of Distance," "Donald Baechler — Recent Paintings and Collages," "Hedwige Jacobs — New Drawings," "Museum of Unnatural History," "PRISMATTAK"

"Disturbance of Distance" Box 13's current show, curated by Eleanor Williams, brings together a handful of artists for a site-specific exhibition in its two main gallery spaces. While not necessarily linked by a specific theme, each work bears something of an organic or chemical matrix representing growth or consumption. Leslie Mutchler's Untitled looks like an experiment in both urban planning and botany. Under a see-through tent, an aluminum table supports what looks like an architectural model of highrise housing projects made from stacks of recycled handmade paper. In between and around the stacks, Mutchler has sprinkled rye grass seeds. Watered daily, the grass has grown, suggesting an encroaching state of entropy. Detritus, by Jennifer Prichard, looks like a bacterial growth along a staircase wall. Look close; it's made from crumpled paper dipped in porcelain. Gabriela Trzebinski's The Burning of Hides is Super-8 footage of a 1989 protest event in Kenya. In order to call attention to rampant poaching of exotic animals, a massive pyre littered with animal hides (leopard and zebra are the most recognizable) is burned to the ground. Sarah Sarhandi's haunting musical composition underscores the visceral imagery. The show closes with a talk with the curator and artists Thursday, February 19. Through February 19. Box 13 ArtSpace, 6700 Harrisburg, www.box13artspace.com. — TS

"Donald Baechler — Recent Paintings and Collages" Donald Baechler's paintings, much like the work of two of his favorite artists, Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg, contain pop elements. A single generic image — ice cream cone, alarm clock, red rose, etc. — dominates the canvas, hovering over a background of seemingly random iconography, like a curio-cabinet collage. In Large Green Cone, the mint-colored ice cream and sugar cone are outlined with a heavy black line and then an outside white one, which gives the subject a separate weight and allows it to be juxtaposed with the background — it's a small detail, but it goes a long way. Like his idols, Baechler suggests that a coded message is waiting to be unlocked in his art, while at the same time expressing the absurdity of searching for meaning. For the most part, though, the show feels inspired by '60s ephemera and a longing for a less complicated life. Through March 7. McClain Gallery, 2242 Richmond, 713-520-9988. — TS

"Hedwige Jacobs — New Drawings" Raised in the Netherlands, Hedwige Jacobs must have drawn upon the sprawling landscape of Houston — she currently resides here — rather than her Dutch upbringing to create this set of new drawings. Though at first glance some of the works look like large-scale doodles, they're actually intricately designed narratives concerning manufactured human interaction. Sun City depicts tiny islands crowded with "Little Boxes"-style houses. Living in a Box and Foreclosure take the concept literally; both are drawings of houses with their roofs open or unfolded like a box, but we see inside that the walls throb with color — perhaps it's a representation of the public vs. private persona. Crowds of people populate other drawings, like Black Hole, in which tiny figures lounge around a dark pool. In Victoria's Secret, women of a variety of shapes and sizes wear different styles of lingerie. Other drawings portray tangles and chains of lattice mesh, as well as house-like forms made of the same material. Jacobs's works rarely contain both people and structures; she seems to purposely separate them. Or she may be suggesting a correlation: Our connections to one another are dictated by the walls we build around us. Through February 21. CTRL Gallery, 3907 Main, 713-523-2875. — TS

"Museum of Unnatural History" Elaine Bradford crochets clothes for dead animals. Maybe "clothes" isn't entirely accurate; Bradford's creations are more like "cozies" for stuffed wildlife. Her new show at the Art League Houston, "Museum of Unnatural History," is reportedly the artist's farewell to taxidermied animals — she will neither clothe nor mutate them after this. Never say never, but if that's true, Bradford's certainly going out with a bang. Her mock museum of natural history purportedly houses a collection of animal specimens "discovered" by a Dr. Thomas Harrigan in a region called the "Sidereal." Bradford even collaborated with a writer, J.D. Ho, to create a helpful "guide" to the collection and informational wall text written in museum-ese. Bradford is undoubtedly an aficionado of natural history museums, because her parody is pitch-perfect. From the depressing dirty ocher color of the walls to the wood bases of the dioramas sporting gold-letter labels, the installation channels the stuff of school field trips. And then the whole place is filled with Bradford's assortment of oddly altered dead animals sporting crocheted skins. In three corners of the room, Bradford created dioramas with wonderful cheesily painted backdrops showcasing various species. One diorama is a kind of tropical forest bursting with fake foliage; another is an arid desert (scant fake foliage); the best, and goofiest, is a kind of arctic cave. The dioramas feel like exhibits from a not especially well-funded natural history museum in a not especially large city — and I mean that in a good way. Through February 20. 1953 Montrose Blvd., 713-523-9530. — KK

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