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Capsule Art Reviews: "George Gittoes: Witness to War" "Jackie Gendel: Fables in Slang" "Musicians Who Make Art" "Nathan Green: Fill the Sky" "Perspectives 174: Re: Generation" "Voodoo Pop: Mary Hayslip and Trey Speegle"

"George Gittoes: Witness to War" Australian artist George Gittoes isn't afraid to put himself at the epicenters of some of the worst acts of human brutality on the planet in order to make his art. His travels have taken him to Rwanda, Bosnia, Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan, among other war-torn countries. This exhibit at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art is the first major presentation of his artwork in the United States. It's chilling, disgusting, journalistic and entertaining all at once. As a visual diary of Gittoes's experiences, the show is a massive dose of illustrated storytelling told through installation, video, drawing, painting, collage and the handwritten word. It takes several hours to experience it all, and we didn't try to soak it all up, because even an hour's worth is excruciatingly depressing. But we agree with Gittoes that it's absolutely necessary for us to look. The artist is holding a mirror up to the evil and ugliness of the world, hoping that will, in effect, destroy evil—like Perseus using a reflection to kill Medusa. A grotesque mythology is employed in Gittoes' work, too. Out of very real evil he constructs graphic-novel-esque narratives about supernatural soldiers and mutant wars rooted in the emotional reality of genocide. In Assumption, a cloud of bloodied, mutilated bodies ascends toward...Heaven, maybe? Another painting takes inspiration from a photograph of a severely beaten Rwandan boy (or maybe a girl?) and transforms it into a hellish image of violence in action. On the entertaining side, don't miss the impressively realized installation of a video store in the Taliban-controlled city of Peshawar. The Taliban are known for bombing such businesses, and Gittoes presents one in incredible detail, with video monitors and walls covered in hilarious DVD covers created by Gittoes himself. It slyly comments on the absurdity of an anti-technology culture using technology to destroy technology (and culture). Through July 17. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900. – TS

"Jackie Gendel: Fables in Slang" Houston-born Jackie Gendel paints portraits and people in a style that recalls a number of late-19th-early-20th-century French painters, but with cranked-up distortion. Her people are constantly obscured by a surface abstraction, or they retreat into the background, virtually faceless with the furniture and decor surrounding them. Chaty and Marthe in the Kitchen is perhaps this series's most striking work, and it demonstrates Gendel's anti-narrative approach. Two women sit at a kitchen table looking epically bored. Their faces and hair are the most detailed parts of the painting, which is brilliantly colored as well. In fact, its brightness is in direct opposition to the malaise depicted. In Calloway, a 1930s-era man is surrounded by wild abstraction that is threatening to envelop him. In a trio of small gouache-on-paper works, Gendel's subjects turn noir-ish, suggesting an unknowable evil in the characters' black-and-white eyes. Field of Mars III looks like a scene out of Greek Myth updated by the presence of a woman in a 1980s outfit and hairdo. Gendel challenges our notions of art and history with mischievous and dreamy flourishes. Through July 2. Bryan Miller Gallery, 3907 Main, 713-523-2875. — TS

"Musicians Who Make Art" When speaking of crossover in art forms, perhaps musicians and visual artists are most successful at achieving success in each other's fields of expertise. Through their manual manipulations of instruments and materials, musicians and visual artists seem naturally inclined to swing between the visual image and the sonic composition. The Art Car Museum is proving it with its current exhibit "Musicians Who Make Art." Largely a Texas-based conglomeration of art, the show includes works by well-known musicians like Butch Hancock of the Flatlanders, whose otherworldly prints evoke sci-fi fantasy, and Joe Ely, who contributes a photo montage/collage of funny, prison-themed DIY infographics. Austin's Bob Schneider's contribution is most surprising, with his outlandish and meticulously detailed etchings and aquatints. (We actually like his artwork more than his music.) Ken Little and Bryan Wheeler are better known as visual artists first (who also play in bands), and their works on display are among the most visually arresting in the exhibit. Wheeler's Infinite Jest takes cues from Jasper Johns in its striking amalgamation of pop and abstract imagery, while Little's Black Jacket Moose amuses as a taxidermied moose head impressively outfitted in black leather and a selection of sporting-good footgear. On the local end, standouts include work by local concept-rock legend Beans Barton, Two Star Symphony's Jo Bird and the Sideshow Tramps' Craig Kinsey. Our favorite is a piece that addresses the quintessential meeting of art and music: the album cover. Jessica DeCuir of San Antonio's Hyperbubble deconstructs the covers of Blondie's Parallel Lines, Men at Work's Business as Usual and the Rolling Stones' Tattoo You into a cool, abstract grid. Through August 7. 140 Heights, 713-861-5526. – TS

Location Info

Map

Station Museum of Contemporary Art

1502 Alabama St.
Houston, TX 77004

Category: Museums

Region: Third Ward

Bryan Miller Gallery

3907 Main
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

Art Car Museum

140 Heights Blvd.
Houston, TX 77007

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Heights

Art Palace

3913 Main St.
Houston, TX 77004

Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks

Region: Third Ward

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

5216 Montrose Blvd.
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Museums

Region: Montrose

Art League Houston

1953 Montrose Blvd.
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Montrose

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"Nathan Green: Fill the Sky" Art Palace is one of our favorite galleries, but we just don't get Nathan Green's current show "Fill the Sky." Some of the 25 abstract, mixed-media works score on their own, like Gradients, a conglomeration of black-and-white cylindrical forms that has a real sense of action in its composition, and Migration, a similar grouping of shapes with frenetic energy. But taken together, it feels like too much is on display. Abstract works can veer into embarrassing, this-is-bullshit territory, and some of the stuff here unfortunately does. It should have been edited. One wall is cluttered with paintings of various sizes with no discernible method or structure in its installation. Another entire gallery wall has been painted in columns of gradient green and blue stripes with a few paintings hung to it. It looks good, and it's a puzzling technique, but there's a messiness to it (as well as in several other works) that gives off a slapdash, kindergarten-chic vibe. It's a strange hybrid of a conceptual installation and an everything-must-go blowout sale. Through July 2. 3913 Main, 281-501-2964. — TS

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