"Layover" Putting art in an airport is almost a defeatist goal — people are too busy getting to someplace else to pause and reflect on an intricate painting or abstract sculpture right in front of them. But that doesn't mean Houston isn't going to try. Through a partnership of the Houston Airport System, City of Houston and Houston Arts Alliance, the city started curating a permanent collection of museum-quality photographs, paintings and sculpture by regional artists that can be rotated throughout Hobby Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The installation isn't happening until later this summer and into the fall, but the public can get a preview of some of the selected works in a current exhibition at the Alliance's gallery. The ten on display are hardly a majority of the 30-plus-item collection, but if this sample is any indication, there is a freshness to the works that goes beyond the provincial, "easy" or obvious. Katrina Moorhead's Map of Incomplete Listing of Uninhabited Islands of the World does deal with an obvious topic — travel — but there's a tongue-in-cheekiness to it as she's marked uninhabited locations on a print of a map that's been beautifully detailed in watercolor. These are not places you're likely to be traveling to today, but rather uncharted territory out there to be explored. Jonathan Leach adds some much-needed pop to the proceedings with Mainline, a pink, geometric painting in acrylic and spray paint that depicts a hectic cityscape — loud billboards and zigzagging lines. On the sculpture side, there's Jeffrey Forster's Device, a strange little green industrial-looking relic that looks like it's been left to rust and corrode, though incredibly, it's made out of ceramic. If this doesn't catch a harried traveler's attention, nothing will. Through August 24. 3201 Allen Pkwy., 713-527-9330. — MD

"Matt Weedman: Order No. 227" It's worth stopping by Art Palace just to check out an artwork called Vacuum Singer. It's a vintage Electrolux canister vacuum with its hose and steamer attachment propped up on a microphone stand like a cobra about to strike. Emanating from the canister is an eerie audio collage that mixes the sound of whooshing air with snippets of Doris Day's "They Say It's Wonderful" and Julie London's "Don't Worry About Me." They say a great work of art contains at least seven meanings, and Vacuum Singer definitely meets the criteria. There's a feeling of deep longing conjured, despite the images of 1950s advertising and smiling housewives that the piece immediately evokes. On the other hand, Day's refrain "it's wonderful" suggests a sedated, almost robotic, expression of happiness. The canister itself could be interpreted as a time capsule or a ghostly chamber of lost souls. The piece could even be construed as a broad metaphor for American consumer culture or a comment on the struggles of women in the mid-20th century. Like a siren, it seduces with promises of pleasure. It's artist Matt Weedman's standout work in his very good exhibition "Order No. 227," which refers to the Joseph Stalin slogan "Not a step back." The show includes close-up photography of snap-off model soldiers, suggesting a kind of assembly-line perspective on American ideas of gratification and industry. The disembodied heads and limbs of the plastic model soldiers, even soldiers posed as dead bodies, comment on the ways in which we psychologically disengage with the very real specter of war and violence. Through August 27. 3913 Main, 281-501-2964. — TS

"Perry House: Elegance/Violence" Perry House is all about opposites — he strives to create images that are beautiful and disturbing, elegant and violent, exploring construction and destruction, bordering realism and abstraction, and walking the line between "horror and humor," as he says. His giant retrospective at the Art Car Museum spans House's 30-plus years of painting. It includes several of his most recognizable series — the most well-known being his surrealist Southern Dinner Series, composed of amoebic, loudly patterned plates that bend around the edges like bedpans and are set against loudly patterned backdrops of fish and flowers. This series is barely ten years old, but already House has moved way past his distorted Fiestaware and returned full circle to a preoccupation of his earlier in his career — landscapes, which are all noted by a mysterious date (2.20.11, 6.3.11 and so on). These are not the overwrought, wreckage-filled landscapes of his Aftermath Series but something more abstract — two-dimensional cityscapes. In an age of 3-D everything, there's something disconcerting, and arresting, about their flatness. With a 1980s graffiti vibe (must be all that neon), they're disjointed and distorted. House has said he doesn't think too much about color when he paints, but these recent paintings have such a strong sense of pigment that you may easily refer to them as the blue one or the red one. Meanwhile, his black-and-white ink drawings, wherein he essentially forgoes a palette altogether, are especially alluring. Through September 2. 140 Heights Blvd., 713-861-5526. — MD

"Sky, Trees and Earth" Margaret Miller's oil paintings of Texas landscapes in Archway Gallery's new show are not as banal as the straightforward title may imply. They're certainly pleasing, as even mediocre landscape paintings can be, but they're also strikingly detailed and have a sense of humor about them. There's a mix of large (about 30-by-40-inch) and exceptionally small (eight-by-eight-inch) landscapes on display at the Dunlavy Street artist cooperative, of which Miller is a three-year member. The sky, trees and earth are inspired by places like Brazos Bend State Park and the Texas Hill Country. You might recognize those you're familiar with, though Miller leaves little hints beyond names like Texas Sunset or Afternoon in Texas. There's a warmth and vibrancy in her touch and use of color that comes out in works like Texas Sunset, which gives off all the warmth of the real thing with its violets and oranges. That same orange comes back unexpectedly in the companion pieces, Live Oaks and Live Oak Trail, in little splashes throughout the sky and grass. Before getting too sentimental, Miller's not afraid to muck up her pretty, perfect landscapes with jolts of color. Of the bigger paintings, the less realistic a landscape, the better. Impressionist works like Lotus Flowers and Nightfall, for instance, play with light and color to beautiful effect. The humorously named Watch Out for the Bees turns the ground into an angry sea of green and orange, the latter painted on in an unusually thick impasto in hectic, scattered dashes. You can just imagine Miller out in the field busily sketching in her notebook and hear the bees buzzing around her. Through August 30. 2305 Dunlavy, 713-522-2409. — MD

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