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Capsule Art Reviews: "The Big Show" "Gifts from the Past: The Isabel Brown Wilson Collection" "Ideas Are Free" "Late Surrealism" "PRINTTX" "Some Tree Rings, a Vision, and the Third of May" "Water's Edge (Mizugiwa)"

"The Big Show" "The Big Show" is Lawndale Art Center's annual juried exhibition. The gallery drip-drops with life this year; though there is no set theme to Lawndale's "Big Show" exhibitions, many of the works are figurative pieces. Bryan Forrester's photograph Imogene C-Print shows a naked man and woman in a kitchen, their bodies fully exposed to the camera lens. The man has just finished throwing up all over the floor, and his gut chunks, like his rear end, face the camera dead-on. Maybe the photo's raw edge is what lifted Forrester over the other entrants to win one of three $1,000 awards, along with artists Avril Falgout and Perry Chandler. Kay Sarver's subject is naked as well, only her Pollinate Me transforms the beehive into a pregnant woman, surrounded by bees and sunflowers. Her swollen belly looks like a honeycomb. Though the subject of Pollinate Me is naked, she sits daintily, hiding her lower regions. Where Forrester's subject is explicit, Sarver's is sweet. JooYoung Choi takes figurative art to multiple levels; Sacrifice of Putt-Putt depicts several images of a woman — Putt-Putt — in multiple states of emotion, from elation to ennui. This year, the gallery received 922 pieces from 366 artists. The juror was Duncan MacKenzie, a Chicagoan and co-founder of Bad at Sports, a weekly art podcast, who whittled the submissions down to 83 works by 67 artists. Through August 10. 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — AO

"Gifts from the Past: The Isabel Brown Wilson Collection" There sits in the Audrey Jones Beck Building at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, an exhibition that is equal parts art history and memoriam: "Gifts from the Past: The Isabel Brown Wilson Collection," donated to the museum by Wilson after her death, is a connection between Wilson's love of art, her love of the history that created it and, ultimately, her love of MFAH. The exhibit reveals an interesting intersection between ancient Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian art and customs. The clearest connection that stands out among these ancient civilizations is status and wealth. For example, Mummy Portrait of a Young Girl, a wax piece from 30 B.C. to 100 A.D., fuses two cultures: the Egyptian practice of mummification and the Roman custom of creating portraits of the mummified. The young girl's pretty gold locket and fanciful purple robes are more than mere decoration; they tell of the upper-class stock she must have come from, since the hot wax used to make the work of art was fickle, drying quickly and requiring the artist to work swiftly, and families would pay a pretty penny for this service. There are also connections within each culture. Much of ancient Egypt's art could be used for practical purposes and then recycled into other pieces, either useful or artistic. A faience is finely ground crystal. Egyptians manipulated faience into jewelry, game pieces, furniture, bowls and cups, and later converted the crystal into small figurines that would lie with the mummified dead in the afterlife. The shabti of Tjai-en-hebu is one of three such figures on display just outside the gallery's front doors, ranging from tiny to small to medium in size. Through October 27. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300 — AO

"Ideas Are Free" Highbrow meets lowbrow. That can be a glib yet effective way of describing the work of Jay Giroux — an artist with a background in skate and street culture who holds an MFA in painting from the University of Houston. The Brooklyn artist's first solo show at Devin Borden Gallery, titled "Ideas Are Free," explores that dynamic as he marries aspects of pop culture with high formalism. Indeed, the first piece you encounter, Skate Stopped Pedestal, is composed of a wooden pedestal topped by aluminum "skatestoppers" — brackets meant to deter skateboarders from skating on curbs or handrails by eliminating a smooth surface. It's as minimal as they come yet loaded with references. Beyond this sculpture, paintings make up the bulk of the show, and Giroux experiments with acrylic, wax, oil, enamel and color pencil in his colorful, layered works — some of which are just about color. The four squares C, M, Y and K compose a tetraptych that is based on the color model used in printing — cyan, magenta, yellow and key (or black) — and are arranged in a column. Collect all four! Other works aren't as neat. Monster Girls (Wax Atmosphere) and Monster Girls (Neon Lights) are messy, busy paintings that leave hints of what's below the surface — blond girls with sunglasses — as if it's a street advertisement layered in graffiti. Works like Stay Focused and Hard in the Paint follow in this loud street-art aesthetic — spray cans and all. But then you have something completely out of left field like Untitled (Target in Red, Yellow, and Blue) — a bruised, bullied canvas that has literal markings on it — gaping holes and punctures that are surrounded mostly by red, with hints of the title's yellow and blue. It's quite beautiful, in a quiet way. For all the attempts to nail him down, Giroux isn't content to do just one thing. Through August 3. 3917 Main, 713-256-0225. — MD

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