"The Graphic Arts of Hans Erni" Hans Erni is one of Switzerland's best-known artists, and a contemporary of Picasso, Kandinsky and Mondrian. Over the decades, he's worked in lithography, digital technology and everything in between. At 103 years old, he still works in his studio every day, rivaling artists a quarter of his age. So I had high hopes for Erni's first major retrospective here in the United States, held at the Museum of Printing History. But I was let down. The retrospective consists of 40 posters, mainly painted illustrations, arranged for the most part in chronological order, from 1948 to 2009. In his decades-long career, Erni has done more than posters, and the museum's exhibition brochure even boasts that his work includes paintings, print and book illustrations, stage design, tapestry and postage stamps. Sure, the exhibition needs some focus given his wide span, but with row upon row of 128-by-91-centimeter posters, other types of graphic art would have been appreciated simply for some variety, as well as to accurately portray and pay tribute to the range of Erni's work. Another missing component is context. Given his Swiss pedigree, the posters are largely in French and German, and, removed from their time frame of reference, they're difficult to decipher. But you can still judge Erni's graphic artwork on its own. The work itself varies wonderfully in style and theme, from dramatic images of a skull topped with an atomic bomb plume to a decapitated tree (literally). Many are united by Erni's repeated use of geometric elements, especially circles, and sometimes even consistent fonts. In some works, the artist adopts styles similar to those of the masters, such as in a striking silkscreen from 1961 of a naked woman that's reminiscent of Picasso, and a Degas-esque print of a woman holding up a giant nut. These intriguing finds make for some standouts in this small show, which despite its flaws is necessary viewing for fans of Erni stateside. Through June 9. 1324 W. Clay St., 713-522-4652. — MD

"Round 36" This group of shows at Project Row Houses brings Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle's Kentifrican Museum of Culture, in which four rooms are dedicated to the ethnomusicology, hairstylings and cultural myths of "Kentrifica," followed by John Pluecker's pop-up bookstore, reading room and experimentation lab. There's Manuel Acevedo's homage to the father of optics, Ibn Al-Hazen, which experiments with optics and elements of photography, and Monie Henderson and Marc Newsome's "Cultural Portal," which explores representations of African Americans in contemporary pop culture through movie posters, photographs and audience prompts. There's Philip Pyle II's commentary on African-American consumer spending, Irvin Tepper's large-scale photographs of the sleeping homeless, and Beth Secor's blue, airplane model-flying homage to her deceased father. Secor's show is one of the most successful in "Round 36," completely transforming the space into something new. She used the walls of the house as her canvas, drawing blueprints of model airplanes and flowers on nearly every open surface. She also hung model airplanes from the ceiling and painted the floorboards blue. It's full of emotion and sentiment even before you know the prints and airplanes belonged to the artist's father (must be all that blue). There's an obsessive quality to it all, with the strange language of the model airplane blueprints surrounding you, but there's also very pretty and clever imagery. I loved the visual of half a plane attached to a wall, circles surrounding it where it makes impact as if it's going through the surface — it's telling you that your rules don't work here, that this place is different and special. Through June 24. 2521 Holman St., 713-526-7662. — MD

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