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"A chain of non-events" At Lawndale Art Center's "Big Show" last summer, Katie Wynne's piece stood out from the nearly 70 others in the exhibition. The installation consisted of just a motorized tie rack and blue satin, but the rack was turned on so that it was constantly revolving and catching the cloth in its hangers. It was utterly mesmerizing in its simplicity. Lawndale's latest round of shows features a different Wynne, one who is much, much messier. In the artist statement for "A chain of non-events," found upstairs in the third-floor Project Space, the Houston artist even says, "In a reality of too much orderliness, I am keeping room for the untamed." This is a show that revels in its disorder. This ambitious exhibition feels like one giant installation, though it is really broken up into five works. There are no tie racks employed, but there are oscillating fans, cassette players and a foot massager, which, mounted on the wall, looks like a big cassette or mini air-conditioner. Scattered among these electronics are colorful blouse sleeves, wrapping paper, sequins, cardboard, felt, fabric and more. These fragments are propped up by wooden beams or tables, which are connected by white string that creates a loose trail and propels you from one piece to the next. There's a sense in which the machines are following some innate logic or instruction. The fans in last judgment repeatedly go back and forth, moving the blouse sleeves attached to them with it, to no end. A paint brush in pangea maria is attached to an oscillating fan and twists like a brush stroke, though the brush is dry. It feels like a rote action, one that can't be help taking place, long after the paint has dried, like a muscle memory. These little situations and setups are not as simple as a tie rack and satin, or as mesmerizing, for that matter. They're more complicated, more layered and harder to access. Which isn't a bad thing. Through April 20. 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — MD

"Cruz Ortiz: I Speak Lightning" Cruz Ortiz is known to work in wheat paste murals, video, street sculptures and guerrilla AM radio broadcasts. His latest solo exhibition is just gouache on paper and panel, but that doesn't make it any less quiet. "I Speak Lightning" at David Shelton Gallery is a loud, blaring show. It is full of bold colors, bright text and, yes, more than a few streaks of lightning. The Houston-born, San Antonio-based artist made a splash here three years ago with his solo exhibition at CAMH. That show introduced many to Ortiz's (to borrow the term) lo-fi aesthetic. There's a simplicity and crudeness to his paintings, a freestyle, rasquache technique that allows Ortiz to work really fast — he created the nearly two dozen pieces in the show just this year. I can see that crude flatness being a barrier to appreciating Ortiz's art — he doesn't seem to try all that hard — but I found it to be part of his charm. In fact, one of my favorites in the show was Darlin. The piece features just the word "Darlin" done in a thin pink font of Ortiz's design — letters alternate between uppercase and lowercase at whim — against a teal background. Purple stars line the top and bottom of the panel in a free-hand style that, again, can come off as slapdash. But there's something about the combination of the bold colors, simple proclamation and unrefined drawing style that is just winning. The show alternates between these text-based pieces that speak of sunshine and "amor" and Ortiz's lovesick poets — cowboy hat-sporting, bandanna-wearing cowboys who are likely the originators of these texts and have literal stars in their eyes. This part can get a bit confusing, but Ortiz's black-lipped alter ego Spaztek (that's part-Aztec, part-spaz) also shows up a few times in portraits such as the sunburst Menudo Power. As the legend goes, Spaztek is on a cosmic search for love — complete with a ray gun. He's a prop, it seems, through which Ortiz can freely speak of personal yet universal topics like love and desire. Though it professes to be about love, "I Speak Lightning" isn't a romantic show; in place of hearts, Ortiz uses stars. But it is an eccentric, giddy celebration of the kind of love that causes fireworks and drives men crazy. When you're immersed in those graphic paintings, the enthusiasm is contagious. Through March 30. 3909 Main, 832-538-0924. —MD

"Farewell Ruins: Julia Haft-Candell and Julia Kunin" There are quite a few similarities in Inman Gallery's new two-person exhibition, "Farewell Ruins." Both artists work in ceramics to create otherworldly sculptures that take on unfamiliar forms that don't strive for perfection. They are also both named Julia. But that's where the similarities end. Through entirely different processes, Julia Haft-Candell and Julia Kunin arrive at pieces that are uniquely strange and captivating. This is the Julias' second group exhibition at Inman, and it's clear why they make such an appropriate pair. Drawn together by their similarities, they each help accentuate what makes the other's work so original and fresh. Kunin's nearly dozen sculptures are lined up in a nice row. Though labeled as vases, they aren't all that practical. For starters, each of them has a very small hole through which to add water or a bouquet; doing so is almost an afterthought. And you wouldn't want to distract from these striking standalone pieces with a few roses or tulips. The Zsolnay porcelain factory in Hungary glazed the Brooklyn-based artist's pieces using a secret technique it invented 150 years ago. Kunin used stones she found in a 15th-century Hungarian monastery. The resulting works have an iridescent luster that looks like gasoline or some other toxic substance. Their craggy, misshapen forms also add to this unnatural feel. It seems as if once perfectly functional vases have corroded and decayed into these current objects, which are nevertheless more interesting to look at in their mutant states. Where Kunin's works are small and contained, Haft-Candell's commandeer the gallery space just on size alone. The Los Angeles artist's floor-bound pieces are a combination of a variety of materials — porcelain fragments, fabric, structuring wire, rebar, thread, wood, cement, ink, gouache, epoxy resin, and more — as well as mediums, as Haft-Candell employs painting, drawing and sculpture. The resulting five assemblages look like bandaged branches or limbs; they invite personification. One of the pieces is even called Elbow, another Charlie. These look like wounded, vulnerable things that Haft-Candell has given a second life, like pastel Frankenstein's monsters that take on a life of their own. Or maybe they're on their last legs, continually broken and then bandaged. The show is titled "Farewell Ruins," after all. Through March 30. 3901 Main, 713-526-7800. — MD

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