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Capsule Art Reviews: "B-Sides: A Dialogue with Contemporary Photography," D-17

"B-Sides: A Dialogue with Contemporary Photography" "B-Sides" was curated by Jennifer Ward, FotoFest's exhibitions coordinator, and it's filled with interesting and unexpected work, all of it relating in some way to "themes fundamental to the current state of affairs in the U.S." In photographer Richard Mosse's 2007 video Fraternity, ten young men, all members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Yale, scream at the top of their lungs — he gave the fraternity members a keg of beer in exchange for their participation in the video. As the video plays, individual participants stop shouting and their images disappear from Mosse's grid of videos. Finally the video is down to the image of one beefy, thick-necked guy in a backwards camouflage-print baseball cap. He just keeps yelling and yelling. In one way the guy is this laughable Animal House Blutarsky archetype, but in another, Mosse is showing how these men embody frightening aspects of male pack behavior. Tim Davis's 2002-2004 series "My Life in Politics" captures images of places the artist visited or wandered into with no special access. He photographs an Anti Flag Burning Rally from above. We see the rally consists of three elderly people at a podium with seven people, mostly cameramen, facing them. It's not hard to realize that the camera angles would give no hint of the rally's complete lack of attendees. Davis captures some strong images, but in a number of them you begin to feel that he is illustrating stereotypes. Emilio Chapela uses the Internet to great effect in incredibly simple but incredibly provocative work — a new series of works derived from Google search suggestions, based on the most popular web queries. Chapela presents these lists of suggested searches as white text on a black background. For example, Chapela typed in "How not to be...," and Google offered up "shy," "jealous," "seen," "lazy," "bored," "nervous," "clingy," "boring" and "awkward." In description, it sounds like some last-minute undergraduate art project, but in reality, it's riveting work. Through December 11. FotoFest, 1113 Vine St., suite 101, 713-223-5522. — KK

D-17 Initially I resisted Sarah Oppenheimer's D-17 at the Rice University Art Gallery. I found the installation — a white-and-silver-edged, aluminum-and-wood structure that spans the gallery space, then moves through its glass walls, over the foyer and out over the entrance — slightly cryptic and a bit too cool. But once I came to appreciate its subtle complexity and impressive craft, the way the artist used the project to alter the notoriously difficult space and the very fact that this installation came to exist at all made up for what it lacks in more obvious charms. It is clear that in coming up with her solution to the spatial problems that Rice Gallery presents, Oppenheimer had to push the conceptual boundaries of her own work. She did what I am sure many other artists who have shown in that space have wanted to do: break out of the building altogether. The artist's aim with D-17 is to mimic light as it beams through the transom over the gallery's entrance, then continues through the foyer and into the gallery. The installation reconfigures the gallery, which resembles nothing so much as a shoebox awaiting its natural-history diorama. D-17 changes this with a physicality that is hard to ignore (one must duck where the "light's" angle cuts low to the ground) and represents an ingenious use of various spatial and visual dimensions. As an engineering marvel and as a concept, D-17 is a must-see. Although the gallery is not open at night, the work can be seen through the front of the building, and this view of the piece is without doubt the most breathtaking. It's a pity that this sight isn't on view on a busy thoroughfare, as its transformation in the evening is spectacular. Through December 5. 6100 Main, 713-348-6069. — LL

 
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