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Capsule Art Reviews: "Kate Breakey 2011: Painted Light," "Perspectives 174: Re: Generation," "Round 34: A Matter of Food"

"Kate Breakey 2011: Painted Light" I've never been a huge fan of Kate Breakey's work. Breakey's stock-in-trade is painstakingly hand-painted photographs of cut flowers and dead birds. The "deadness" of both is a particular area of interest to the artist. The results are colorful, treacly and crowd-pleasingly decorative. But in a wall installation of new work at McMurtrey Gallery, Breakey has taken her death fixation in a much more interesting direction. She's making photograms by taking plants and insects and roadkill, laying them on light-sensitive paper and then exposing it. The results are soft-edged, sepia-toned silhouettes against black backgrounds: ferns, tarantulas, birds, coyotes and snakes. (The snakes have an especially nice graphic quality.) The artist presents the variously sized images in an assortment of vintage frames — big for coyote, small for tarantula. Clustered together salon-style on one wall, the works are incredibly poignant and evocative, presenting death like a Victorian collection. The viewer is left to imagine the details. This straightforward approach elegantly conveys the emotion Breakey has been trying for in her far more involved and overwrought painted photographs. Through April 23. McMurtrey Gallery, 3508 Lake St., 713-523-8238. — KK

"Perspectives 174: Re: Generation" This biennial exhibition organized by the CAMH's Teen Council showcases the work of Houston-area teens, and it features some wonderful stuff — you'll want to take down some names of artists to watch. The flagship image of the show is Alyssa Hansen's digital photograph Princess, a closeup on a teenage girl's lower lip, which she reveals to be tattooed with a crown. It's a generational line in the sand, an example of a phenomenon that makes perfect sense to those of a certain age, and yet it represents total absurdity to their elders. Another photograph, David Garrett Marsh's Fading Away, depicts an overweight girl sitting cross-legged at the side of a road, smoking. Next to her is a fuzzy gray cloud in the shape of another person, perhaps a friend. And the girl's face is strangely blurred — on closer inspection, her face is pixelated and raised off the surface of the paper. Ava Barrett's Deconstructed Hymnal: Wall of Sound is a hanging matrix of hymnal pages that walks a line between provocative and reverent. But Temin Adelaide Eng's Twilight doesn't pull punches on how it feels about its literary subject: Stephenie Meyer's series of vampire novels. Eng has constructed a miniature coffin, lined with pages from the novel, which she has burned. Its charred remains lie inside with only a portion of the cover and spine intact to identify it. And continuing the impressive photography on display is Brittany Nichols's Strange Manners, a scene of macabre domestic violence. A man wearing a rabbit mask lies dead on a kitchen floor, apparently stabbed to death by a woman, also rabbit-masked and bloody-handed. It's a coolly composed, lit and staged piece of narrative photography. Through June 26. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250. — TS

"Round 34: A Matter of Food" Project Row Houses' current round of installations takes food as its theme — the roles it plays in culture, history, belief systems, rituals and community. Chefs, historians, nutritionists and gardeners (as well as artists) were asked to participate by curators Ashley Clemmer Hoffman and Linda Shearer, and perhaps that's why there's less art on display than usual. The round leans heavily on community outreach, historical commentary and environmental projects, and only three houses out of the seven present challenging emotional and intellectual experiences. New York-based artist Michael Pribich's Sugar Land presents the sugar trade from the laborer to the factory, with stalks of cane standing upright inside a brass railing, bags of Imperial sugar stacked upon wall-mounted machetes, and a series of framed dollar bills with stamped letters that spell "Imperial." Jorge Rojas's Gente de Maiz explores corn/maize as a religious entity. He created a miniature army of corn people and a kind of altar/shrine to the corn gods. And Tamalyn Miller's Spirit House takes inspiration from Amish hex signs with a series of large crocheted doilies (made of clothesline, string and electrical wire, and adorned with horseshoes, dimes and railroad spikes. Not really food-inspired, but it's the most inspired installation in the round. The signs are thought to repel evil spirits and energy, but their presence makes each room feel haunted somehow. Through June 19. Project Row Houses, 2521 Holman, 713-526-7662. — TS

 
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