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Capsule Art Reviews: "A Crack in Everything," "Bridge 11: Lia Cook," "Hate Expo," "Love Man"

 "A Crack in Everything" The highly touted Seattle dance troupe zoe | juniper completely transforms DiverseWorks Art Space into its own dark, weird, womb-like dreamland. The artists create an entirely unfamiliar, unnerving place through innovative video, projection and sound techniques. It's the kind of installation that makes you say "what the hell?" — but in a good way. As with many other avant-garde multimedia productions, it's hard to describe exactly what happens in "A Crack in Everything," which explores such big concepts as memory and time. But for starters, you're greeted by two wall-size photographs depicting an orderly line of naked, pale people in a forest, their heads covered by fur and their chests painted silver. Walking through a dark hallway as if you're one of the naked blind, you're flanked by two screens that depict a half-naked woman — choreographer Zoe Scofield — wearing only white underwear with silver paint down her chest and stomach. She's dancing in jabbing yet still graceful moves, her form multiplied and overlapped hypnotically. You then reach a slightly elevated white platform that has two large screens propped next to each other — this is the real meat of the installation. There's enough room to walk between them or on either side, or you can sit on risers against opposite walls and watch. On both screens, an hour-long video loop features projections of life-size dancers wearing futuristic black tunics. Their images multiply, overlap, disappear and reappear. (In several live upcoming performances, dancers will play with these, bending what's real and what's not even further, though the installation does stand alone with or without this element.) There's more strange beauty to behold in this installation, but some pieces simply defy concise synopsis, sparking deep, emotional reactions that are unique to each viewer — go see it for yourself. Through February 25, with live dance performance at 1 p.m. 1117 East Fwy., 713-223-8346. — MD

"Bridge 11: Lia Cook" There is a great illusion at work in Lia Cook's show at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Her massive, black-and-white photographs of human faces — children gazing calmly at the camera, or extreme close-ups of lips and noses — are not photographs at all. Rather, they're comprised of intricately woven cotton that, when viewed from afar, takes on a recognizable image. The oft-treaded pointillist technique is reinvigorated in Cook's striking, large-scale, intricate, fiber art works, based on photographs that she's taken or pulled from her childhood. To create them, she uses a digital Jacquard loom. Viewing from a distance, the mostly black-and-white images become clear. But up close, when you're nose-to-nose with the subjects, it's pixelated gibberish. The museum gives viewers plenty of space to view the large-scale works, and they're best seen as far away as possible. In fact, as you wander throughout the space and glance back at works you've already seen, they become more defined and have added depth. Cook has certainly created a memorable experience for museum-goers; if only the images themselves held up as well. Sure, she has made some interesting choices — a pair of blurry photos of two kids is quite alluring, as your mind works in vain to pull them into focus, and her cropped images, showing just parts of the face, are dramatic. But many of the images aren't all that remarkable, and a science-inspired series that plays with colored thread is also a bit baffling. Through May 13. 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — MD

"Hate Expo" Dusty Peterman and William Keihn, the two artists who make up Mushroom Necklace, have no issues with telling their audience to take a long walk off a short pier, but with more colorful four-letter words. Don't take it personally, it matches the theme and feel of the artwork they produce. "Hate Expo," their latest collection of work, on view at Domy Books, feels like a play on words, as do most of the duo's pieces. The collection features silk-screened prints, many of which resemble music posters or promotional fliers, but they smack you in the face. One poster invites you to the "Drug Street Festival," where "no sandals are allowed," while another appears to be a flyer for the "Loser Bar," where "bad luck awaits you" and, not so subliminally, advises you to end it all. The posters are clever and engaging, begging the audience to look again to be sure of what they had just read. One that stood out at first appeared to be a band flyer for the Beatles performing alongside another band named "Make Me Sad." Read quickly, the meaning has changed. The posters hang on the walls of Domy haphazardly with Duct tape and pushpins, which, again, seems to be Mushroom Necklace's shtick. Their work is meaningless, but everything is meaningless. Rather than saying "why bother," though, the two artists have shoved "why bother" in our faces by creating this thought-provoking collection. We are glad they bothered. Through March 15. 1709 Westheimer, 713-523-3669. — AK

"Love Man" Justin Brown Durand's new drawings at Front Gallery are inspired by Valentine's Day, but don't expect any hearts, flowers or anything remotely resembling your typical saccharine romance. But there is tons of pink. For "Love Man," gallery owner Sharon Engelstein reached out to Durand to specifically make a show to run during the Hallmark holiday. The artist says he then put himself in a "love trance," looking to romance, lust and passion for inspiration. The result of that trance shows the three at play in raw works that are alternately creepy, strange and oddly alluring, done in crayons, pastels, markers, pencil and pen. The subjects of Durand's paintings are exposed, both literally and emotionally — naked, with outlines of bones and arteries dressing up their limbs. The hearts here are outside the body, bleeding and still beating. The drawings are like R. Crumb meets Picasso — black and white ink sketches of bodies with their proportions, well, out of proportion. The subjects themselves display a wide range of romantic states — one couple is in rapture, embracing tenderly. Another is lying straight as boards, dead-looking, displaying no sense of intimacy despite their mutual nakedness. "Moccasins" is one of the most memorable, if also alarming, pieces — it shows an anonymous couple, their faces masked by long, flowing hair, in a heated moment. Both are naked save for their moccasins, and one is being dismembered, the torso cut in half and guts being pulled out. That gruesome scene is immediately followed by the touching "Virgins" — the image of a couple embracing, gazing into each others' eyes, with the words "I never thought tonight would ever be this close to me" coming from the man's mouth. Through March 17. 1412 Bonnie Brae St., 713-298-4750. — MD

 
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