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Capsule Art Reviews: "Bridge 11: Lia Cook," "CTRL group two," "How I Will Die," "Members," "Pressing News," "Prints," "reverse of volume RG"

"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

"CTRL group two" Collage photography is having a bit of a moment right now in Houston, thanks to a major exhibition up at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston called "Utopia/Dystopia." For a much smaller show that still manages to cover a lot of ground, there's also "CTRL group two" at Bryan Miller Gallery, which displays an impressive variety among its seven artists. Among them, Javier Piñon's works stands out the most. It's no coincidence that one of his three collages (The Pact) is the first you see upon entering the gallery. It is a dense nature scene that contains its own mythology. A pale, naked woman is stretched out over rocks, a dagger in her hand, while a dead rabbit lies beside her. A fox stumbles across the scene, as a skull floats in a nearby river. It's oddly compelling, and will leave you puzzling over what it all means. Heimir Björgúlfsson also works with nature themes, juxtaposing unlikely elements in conventional scenery shots. In This ain't the first rodeo, a snowy, tree-lined slope is overlaid with out-of-proportion planks of weathered wood and a patch of rocks. His nature shots don't seem so natural after all. All the works display a degree of intimacy, though none more so than Matthew Stone's — in a more literal sense of the word. His Polymorphic Love Diagram Unfolds features sculptural photo-collages of intertwined bodies on wood, which bends and contorts like the bodies do. The prints look like classical paintings, with the naked men and women warmly yet sharply lit against black backgrounds. They are quite beautiful. Through May 19. 3907 Main, 713-523-2875. — MD

"How I Will Die" In Kristy Peet's series of clinical-looking photographs, all sharply lit and crystal clear, she is confronting her hypochondria, as she puts it, though it more closely seems to be her fears of mortality. In one photograph, she's lying stretched out on a gurney, a white blanket stretched over all her body except for her feet, which are sticking out towards you with tags hanging from one of the big toes. In another, she's wrapped almost entirely in gauze bandage, her face a white, blank mask. Other images deal with biohazards, amputation, skin cancer and obesity, primarily with the artist as the subject. Peet's playing, it's make-believe, but there's some aspect of truth to it all — we all go somehow. It's such a personal subject, yet the photos seem scrubbed clean of any messy emotions. The most evocative of all, in this sense, is the gauze portrait, The most common type of bandage is the gauze bandage. Covered in gauze, Peet has been consumed by her fears to the point where she is indistinguishable. Through May 31. Gallery 1724, 1724 Bissonnet, 713-582-1198. — MD

"Members" Britt Ragsdale works with bodies, though his photographs don't set a scene so much as capture the angles, forms, shapes and scale of the human body. There are images of outstretched hands, baby's feet, a bald head, knobby knees and, to be honest, some body parts that aren't so easily identifiable. They're only parts — photographed against a black background, they don't even look like they belong to a body at all. There's a classic quality to them, the skin as luminous as anything you'd find in a Caravaggio painting. Most of the photos were printed on a small scale — six by six inches, or 12 by 12. I left wishing Ragsdale had gone bigger. Sure, you can fit more photos in the space when they're smaller, but these photos are larger than life, and should be displayed that way. In fact, the two largest prints — Members Study 1.1 and Members Study 2.1, which feature legs and bodies stacked on top of each other — were the most captivating. They commanded your attention. Through May 31. Gallery 1724, 1724 Bissonnet, 713-582-1198. — MD

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