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Capsule Art Reviews: "Bert Long's RED Book", "Iron: Forged, Tempered, Quenched", "Maurizio Cattelan", "Steve Wolfe on Paper"

"Bert Long's RED Book" Houston art scene fixture Bert Long presents 18 new pieces based on The Red Book, Carl Jung's personal art journal that was published for the first time last year. Jung's artwork was based largely on the symbolism of dreams, and Long mines his own personal unconscious for this show, which manages to incorporate elements evocative of Jung's personal style. Many of Long's works utilize collage; they're assemblages of objects with paintings. Several of the works on display employ deconstructed pinewood frames beautifully stained with acrylic, giving the paintings a somehow "bookish" look. Self Examination, literally the theme of the show, evokes the surrealists — Tanguy in particular — with its blobby shapes and oozy texture. It's Long examining his body's output, both physically and psychically. Stumped is a nightmare vision of a human heart on fire and dripping with water, perched on a leg and coiled with a green snake. It's ubiquitous symbolism, perhaps, but Long's presentation is powerful. Beware after viewing: Long's work, appropriately on exhibit at the Jung Center, might provoke a restless night or two. Through May 28. C.G. Jung Center, 5200 Montrose, 713-524-8253. — TS

"Iron: Forged, Tempered, Quenched" Showcasing iron and steel works in a variety of uses and forms, this show, which the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft calls "one of the most significant exhibitions of blacksmithed objects in decades," features impressive work from all over the country. Traditional, practical items and tools, like ax blades and shovels, are displayed alongside wild sculpture, like a city of skyscrapers invaded by a giant, multiple-dragon-headed hydra, three tall, totem-like towers of steel, and bright-colored organic forms that look inspired by the cartoon mythology of Daniel Johnston. Strangely, though, it's the practical and nonrepresentational pieces that really stand out. There are some fine furniture pieces and wall sconces on exhibit, as well as abstract sculpture begging for some kind of unusual purpose. The Craft Center has plenty of extra info on the blacksmiths and where to find local ones too. Don't be afraid to ask for a price list. On view through May 16. 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — TS

"Maurizio Cattelan" It's tempting to think that artist Maurizio Cattelan is putting one over on The Menil Collection. The Italian sculptor's works often tease art-world conventions and mock institutional authority. What's happened, though, in the delightful exhibition "Maurizio Cattelan," is a perfect harmony of two voices, the artist's and the institution's. Always smart in its approach to curation, the Menil has allowed Cattelan to make selections from the collection to display in juxtaposition with his own works, as well as install pieces within the museum's permanent exhibits. The result is a building-wide scavenger hunt that yields some pretty thrilling moments. And ironically, the Menil plays the trickster by figuring out an ingenious way to make patrons who only show up for the rotating exhibits check out the permanent ones again. There may not be a more perfect place for this experiment — Cattelan is a self-taught artist and was influenced greatly by surrealism. If one begins exploring the Menil at the west side of the building, Cattelan literally spells it out for us by choosing to display Joseph Kosuth's 1967 painting Titled. In white letters on a black canvas is the definition of the word "meaning." The majority of the Cattelan works on display are untitled, so introducing the definition of "meaning" seems to imply "abandon all hope of." The exhibition's major work is Cattelan's All, nine human figures lying horizontally on the floor that appear to be covered with white sheets — at least, that's what your brain tells you when you walk into the room. Closer inspection reveals a material of significantly greater substance. Another Cattelan work resides near a selection from Warhol's Electric Chair series. (You have to look for it.) And inside the surrealism galleries, find the hanging, upside-down hand with its fingers cut off (except for the middle one). Cattelan's summation of Dada, perhaps? Through August 15. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400. — TS

"Steve Wolfe on Paper" "Steve Wolfe on Paper" is an interesting counterpoint to the "MANUAL on Books" exhibit at Moody Gallery. While the Moody show is essentially photographs of books, this Menil exhibit showcases Wolfe's trompe-l'oeil objects that "trick the eye," and which are largely depictions of books. Wolfe's best-known works look like worn-out paperbacks of titles like Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely, Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea and Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, made from wood, modeling paste, oil paint and screen print. They are exact replicas, down to their distressed spines, dog-eared corners and torn covers. Also on display are Wolfe's studies on paper for the objects, incredibly detailed drawings and screen prints of book covers, poster art and photographs, sometimes on their own and other times as collage — tributes to cultural heroes like J.D. Salinger, Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett and, of course, Andy Warhol, to whom Wolfe is perhaps most indebted. Don't miss Wolfe's reproductions of vinyl records, made from oil, enamel and graphite. It's the mass-made made handmade. Through July 25. The Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400. — TS

 
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