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Capsule Art Reviews: "Allison Hunter: Zoosphere", "Dirty Secrets from the Cataract Cinema", "Eileen Maxson: Orphans of Failure",

"Allison Hunter: Zoosphere" "Zoosphere" is an impressive video installation, composed of both large and tiny projections of animals Hunter videotaped at the Houston Zoo. Hunter's photographs of animals freeze them in moments of self-conscious reflection, stripping away their natural environments and emancipating them, in a sense, from their natural contexts. She shines a digital spotlight on their inner worlds. "Zoosphere" is Hunter's attempt to translate the same idea into the video realm, but it stops short of her goal. One floor projection of swimming koi fish melded with a pool of seals is mesmerizing, and the audio track of animal sounds is sufficiently unsettling, but only two projections achieve the powerful spotlighting effect that runs through her photographs. There's a gorgeous life-size projection of an elephant that seems to have emerged from total darkness, as well as a lone meerkat finding its way into a burrow, but others are merely close-up nature videos in a loop. One wonders if Hunter needed more time to digitally enhance the work and bring it to its full potential. Through April 17. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Fwy., 713-223-8346. — TS

"Dirty Secrets from the Cataract Cinema" This exhibit of photography by Dan Havel and Chuck Ivy utilizes motion picture imagery to explore themes of time, history and physical degradation. Ivy wrote software to reduce a minute's worth of feature film footage into a single frame. His large C-prints capture moments from movies like Brazil, Naked Lunch, Mirrormask and The Matrix in stunning, hazy amalgamations, as if the image is throbbing with movement from within. Ivy's video piece condenses the entire length of the film Blade Runner into a minute-long blur of frozen shots and long exposures, which somehow manages to encapsulate the movie's moody atmosphere. Havel took still frames from film reels he discovered in an abandoned X-rated-movie theater and blew them up big, emphasizing the damaged emulsion and deep, saturated color, creating sculptural images that exude a nostalgic and viscerally erotic vibe. His video piece, Kiss/Scream, is a digital transfer of '70s porn footage that pulses with hot-pink degraded emulsion, amplifying the ecstatic expressions of the actors while recontextualizing pornography into a more innocent era. Through April 17. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — TS

"Eileen Maxson: Orphans of Failure" "Orphans of Failure" may seem like a small show or simple idea, but it's a helluva fascinating one. Maxson was inspired by a Craigslist ad offering a free, taxidermied wolverine to anyone who would take it. The owner was convinced the dead animal was haunted, and stipulated "no questions asked" to all interested parties. It prompted Maxson to investigate her own belongings and such for similar ghosts she wished to exorcise. The result is a calendar for the year 1993 — which just so happens to be identical to 2010 — featuring photos presumably from that year or made to look that way. A stack of Polaroid VHS tapes mirrors a stack of Nutrisystem frozen pizzas, suggesting a bygone standard of consumption. April '93 is represented by a fanned-out deck of cards displaying the Joker, an image of the World Trade Center's twin towers — a subtle, haunting touch. Other photos juxtapose well with Maxson's conceit: an autographed Patrick Swayze poster, a dog with its head buried in a bag of Science Diet, a head being checked for lice. She kicks off 1994 with an image of a ghost with bleeding orange eyes. Maxson is adept at finding the dreadful humor at work in assemblages of seemingly unrelated content. And the calendar's for sale! Through April 17. Domy Books, 1709 Westheimer, 713-523-3669. — TS

 
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