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Capsule Art Reviews: "Claire Ankenman: Phase", "Hand+Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft", "Round 32: eco, xiang, echo: meditations on the african, andean & asian diasporas", "The White Album"

"Claire Ankenman: Phase" Claire Ankenman makes intriguing mixed-media works that probe the question "What am I looking at?" Her previous show at Moody Gallery, "Slices," was a literally penetrating series that examined the effects of cutting different surfaces and materials, and the wound-like inflictions that resulted. Here, she experiments with covering and concealing. As can best be determined, Ankenman has mounted wooden rings containing pastel-colored material to the wall and covered them with a sheet of frosted plastic, obscuring the shapes and allowing light to alter the dimensions. They look like a collection of celestial eggs or magnified cells. Besides being endlessly fascinating to look at, it's also tempting to peek at the pieces' true identities, since the plastic sheets aren't attached at the bottom. It would be easy to simply lift the sheet and look. I resisted, however. I didn't want to ruin the mystery. Through July 3. Moody Gallery, 2815 Colquitt, 713-526-9911. — TS

"Hand+Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft" This exhibit examines and emphasizes the integration of performance in contemporary art and craft. But don't expect to walk into the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and watch a show. While performances and events have been scheduled as part of the ongoing exhibition, many of the works on display have been augmented with video elements that document the ways in which the objects were used in performance. For instance, Ryan Gothrup makes objects out of glass that mimic objects made from other materials. Here, he presents a rack holding four basketballs. One is made of glass, but it's almost impossible to tell which without touching them. He also presents a disturbing video of a man shooting hoops at a public outdoor court, shattering several glass balls. Meant as a controlled, supervised performance with a production crew, the shooting is halted by a violent, deranged man threatening to call the cops on the artists for deliberately breaking glass in a public park. It's a train wreck that's both fascinating and infuriating to watch. Another standout is collaborative group Plan B's video of glass blowers doing some very dangerous things with molten glass — like juggling hot balls of it and using a long, hot strand of it as a jump rope. And don't miss Michael Rea's wooden re-creations of musical instruments and equipment: electric guitars, a sax, drums, keyboard, theremin, amps, pedals, power cords and even a cowbell. An accompanying video shows a "band" performing a pretend/karaoke rendition of the Bee Gees' "Jive Talkin'" using the displayed equipment. Through July 25. 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250. — TS

"Round 32: eco, xiang, echo: meditations on the african, andean & asian diasporas" This round of installations at Project Row Houses examines the similarities between the cultural disseminations of Africa, South America and Asia. The works spotlight individuals and groups displaced, in a sense, from their cultural roots and traditions. Minette Lee Mangahas calls attention to an indigenous Filipino script called baybayin that exists almost exclusively on people's skin as tattoo. She drapes the room in a flesh-toned fabric and augments the surroundings with cut mirror and tattoo photos. Glexis Novoa tells the story of a Cuban relative's socialist background with a surprising installation. He traces a fine pencil line along the room's walls and occasionally interrupts it with tiny, intricate drawings of Soviet-era inspired imagery, like communist statues and architecture, tangled together somehow in string and strewn banners, possibly in a state of decay. Mendi + Keith Obadike weave sounds of the Third Ward community into their visually and aurally mesmerizing work Sonic Mbari. Colored coils of light, cast over a long section of rocks, flicker according to the tone and volume of the audio track. It echoes the Nigerian concept of the Mbari, a religious offering designed for a specific community. Through June 20. Project Row Houses, 2521 Holman, 713-526-7662. — TS

"The White Album" There's nothing Beatlesque about this show, but as the title suggests, the color white plays a large part. The ten works on display are drained of color, emphasizing negative space and textural elements. Jill Moser's oil-on-canvas In the White City utilizes an interesting brush-stroke technique that renders closely grouped lines in a pleasing abstract pattern. Mark Williams's Homage to White is a tall canvas with whitewashed rectangular fields of gray and blue that feels more like an homage to any number of post-war abstract artists. Most interesting are Joseph Cohen's Proposition 5 and 6, two rectangular works on birch wood, covered with a thick layer of latex, enamel and epoxy. The gently textured white surface imitates weathered stone. The slightly bent edges are covered in a rainbow of paint drippings dappled with drips of white, and an oozy yellow residue coats the outer sides. Most puzzling is Joseph Marioni's White Painting, which is actually yellow. The largest and most expensive piece on display, it's also the one most likely to polarize viewers, since it contains no visible skill level other than the ability to use a paint roller, and badly at that. It's the type of work that embodies the most farcical elements of contemporary art. The ones people point to when satirizing the art world. Through June 30. Wade Wilson Art, 4411 Montrose, 713-521-2977. — TS

 
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