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"Joseph Havel: Hope and Desire" In his solo show at Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston artist and Glassell School of Art director Joseph Havel has just two pieces in the gallery's main room. The more prominent, and colorful, even in its monochromatism, is Hope and Desire, which also gives the show its name. It consists of ten Plexiglas boxes densely stuffed with carefully arranged shirt labels embroidered with the words "hope" and "desire." There are upwards of 30,000 of them to each box, with each box alternately consisting of shirt labels labeled "hope" and "desire." Thanks to the white edges of the labels, the labels form blue lines that run up and down, across and diagonally, like some Sol LeWitt line drawing done in fabric. Havel has worked with shirt labels and Plexiglas boxes like this before, but the ten used here make it the largest of this scale yet. It's visually striking, too. The labels read like blue and white paint until you get up close to confront it and the illusion is gone. The messages in the labels are also mostly hidden, save for some that are revealed along the edges of the clear frame or are out of place in the line, like a happy accident. The second piece in the show is Architecture, a tower of cast resin that replicates the collected papers of Sigmund Freud. The stack consists of seven casts of the set of books, as well as the original model, now destroyed, making it 5'7" tall — which by some lucky math was also the height of Freud himself. The cast leaves the imprint of the books' volumes and author like a ghostly shadow, which is quite fitting since it's meant to be referential. By using Freud, Havel is speaking to the influence of the thinker on Modernism. Hope and Desire is also said to be inspired by The Dream Songs by John Berryman, a work that expresses Freudian concepts. There's much art historical, cultural and personal information to read here, but even if it all doesn't come across, both works are still really satisfying formally to look at. Through January 26. 4520 Blossom St., 713-863-7097. — MD

"Laura Nicole Kante: Fibers of Being" Putting it mildly, fiber is a big source of inspiration for Laura Nicole Kante. The artist, who's based out of McKinney, has three distinct works, all involving and experimenting widely with woven forms, currently up at Lawndale Art Center's Cecily E. Horton Gallery. The most prominent piece spreads through the upstairs gallery like a doily virus. Crochet lace takes over the walls, bending around corners and stretching above typically off-limits areas, like the elevator, where you don't usually expect to see work. It's an organic piece not unlike what the artist displayed recently on a major wall in the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft's "CraftTexas 2012" show. But I like how this technique works in a smaller space; the woven piece is able to interact with the architecture of the room and really encompass you. In another work, Kante's wall pieces take on more of a hard, sculptural form as handwoven copper, linen and silk interact to form alternately pointy and slithery beings. These project from the wall like horizontal stalactites or creep up it like snakes. They're pretty creepy, to say the least, which is not a feeling you usually associate with cloth. Lastly, Kante has created multiple wall slabs composed of drywall, wood, nails, and crocheted linen and doilies — beautiful and harsh at the same time. They hang on the wall as if cut and pasted from a previous exhibition of her crochet installations. Combined, these are all subtle, quiet works. There isn't a lot of color, which doesn't have a big impact at first. But once you spend some time with them, they all take on a life of their own. Through January 12. 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — MD

"Staring at the Wall: The Art of Boredom" When an art show about boredom begins with the warning "Viewer discretion is advised," you can rest assured it'd be anything but boring. In "Staring at the Wall: The Art of Boredom," the main show currently up at Lawndale Art Center, curator Katia Zavistovski brings together six artists who address boredom in their work, whether through the pieces' repetitiveness or as a distraction from boredom. From the get-go, the show seems pretty sparse, though there's a lot to unpack among the drawings, video and sculpture present. Upon entering the gallery, the first thing you hear are the words "art," "work," "hard" and "work" repeated in a robotic-like chant from somewhere, but we'll get to that later. Chris Akin's works stands out for its referencing of another Houston art institution — the Menil. A guard at the museum, Akin says he's "spent a lot of time looking at the floor." Using that as inspiration, he's mapped out areas of the Menil's gallery spaces from his various perspectives. The most effective of these works is a two-year series that depicts the Menil floor plan. The shape of the floor is tilted at an angle, turning it into a piece of abstraction, and is repeated six times in black, green, gray and yellow, as if Akin's returned to it and wanted to depict a different mood. Jeremy DePrez tackles boredom head on by replicating the spiraling scribble from one of his notebooks. In a clever, playful conceit, he's turned a 6½-inch doodle into a 6½-foot oil painting. The mindless, unconscious, typically insignificant act of doodling becomes monumental and through the act of painting gives it this funny, unexpected reverence. Rounding out the paintings is the lone inclusion by Seth Alverson — an oil painting of an empty red leather chair. In this case, the subject matter itself is boring. This is a risky choice — can the work itself rise above the inherent banality of its subject? In this case, the piece is saved by the rusty blood red of the chair, which is an unusual, intriguing choice. Boredom is often measured in the passage of time — or seeming stoppage of it — a topic explored in Uta Barth's photographs. This is a difficult thing to convey, but in two similar works, she manages to capture the ephemeral quality of sunlight as it moves like an unsteady cardiogram across a curtain. The images themselves seem to be barely there. Video artist Jenny Schlief turns the camera on what's just in front of her — her young children. Kids are constantly entertained, whether it's by toys, TV or their own imaginations. They should not know boredom. In Schlief's videos, they are wrapped up in their own mindless activities. In one, her son and daughter dance in the shower wearing animal masks. In another, her daughter shakes it to Vivaldi's "Spring," playing from a toy ark, while Schlief says, "I am making art" over and over again in a nod/ode to John Baldessari's self-conscious performance art. It is all so delightfully, giddily absurd. Whereas Schlief's works can be enjoyed without any introduction, Clayton Porter's have a backstory that needs to be shared to really resonate and have meaning. For instance, Anal Patina isn't just a stationary bike with a curious bronze seat anymore once you learn that he rode more than 650 miles — naked — on the bike (there's photographic proof). Similarly, eight plaster of Paris casts of melted butter that line the window are seemingly nothing more until you find out about Porter's process. That's revealed discreetly through three inward-facing TV screens that are the source of the spoken words "artwork" and "hard work." Spoiler alert: Each screen shows a video of the artist placing his erect penis onto butter, causing it to melt. (That's where the viewer discretion is advised.) Once you get over the unexpected imagery, it's a process not unlike watching paint dry. It's boredom in the flesh. Through January 12. 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — MD

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