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"Late Surrealism" Mark Rothko. Jackson Pollock. They're not the usual suspects you'd associate with Surrealism, but they're some of the biggest names in The Menil Collection's current show "Late Surrealism." Though they're known for their groundbreaking abstract work, as the Menil exhibition shows, pigeonholing artists can be tricky business. And during the 1930s and '40s, artists working in America were influenced by surrealists as the art capital shifted from Paris to New York. Curator Michelle White has pulled together 14 artists and 26 pieces from the museum's holdings for the compact show. There are paintings as well as collages, assemblages, works on paper and sculptures created during for the most part the '30s and '40s on display. All together, the works demonstrate what White describes as a "push-pull" between Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism. It's in the mysterious figures in one of Pollock's paintings — not one of his trademark splatter jobs, but one depicting animal-like monsters that are slightly nightmarish. Unnamed, this lack of any clue further adds to its mystery. This push-pull is also evident in Rothko's Red Abstract, a blood-red dreamscape composed of figures that resemble birds and a spade. Other works are strange and slightly goofy. Two Max Ernst sculptures — standing bronze pieces — both feature faces. In one, La plus belle (The Most Beautiful One), the eyes are slightly lopsided above a wide grin. In the other, Asperges de la lune (Lunar Asparagus), the face seems to be splintered — the eyes on one pole, the mouth on the other. Joan Miró's Oeuf (galant ovale) also depicts a face — this one curiously, humorously unhappy — on a ceramic piece made convincingly to look like a rock. There's more to admire — pieces that primarily explore the human body in ink and charcoal that are all experimental in form — in what's an eye-opening, fascinating show on a fascinating period. Through August 25. 1533 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400. — MD

"PRINTTX" By name alone, the Museum of Printing History may seem like the last place you'd find contemporary work in the print field. But among the permanent displays that chronicle the history of printing can be found impressive works that experiment with the form and subject matter. So it is with "PRINTTX," the first juried exhibition of contemporary Texas artists as part of PRINTHOUSTON 2013, a summer-long event celebrating both traditional and contemporary printmaking in the state. Peter S. Briggs, the Helen DeVitt Jones Curator of Art at the Museum of Texas Tech University, has pulled together 23 works of varying sizes and materials by 20 artists. Some of the more engaging pieces aren't what you'd think of when you consider prints. Ann Johnson's Sky's Nest is a sphere of intaglio and found objects suspended from the ceiling by a string. Inside this enclosed nest is, curiously, a faint, ghost-like image of a girl printed on feathers — it's obvious but at the same time unexpected. Orna Feinstein's The Fan is less mysterious. This sculptural wall piece consists of a blue and black monoprint on a plexi and metal part. The circular spots of color repeat the fan's shape over and over in circles themselves, making it all about the whirring motion of this geometric form. Among the more typical prints, Evan Leigh Rottet's photographic lithograph Trash? is a beautifully saturated piece that depicts a pile of garbage in great sepia tones, implying that these discarded items may still have value. Trash? indeed. Other prints have grander, more political implications. Jesus De La Rosa's lithograph Party Is Over is a bright pink piñata with bullets for ears and a look of what seems to be concern in its piñata eye. The small, bold print definitely catches your attention, but then keeps you as it makes a commentary on the "hidden nature of the US/Mexican war on illegal drugs," says the artist. There are plenty of these subtle details, including the button and shirt tag of Joëlle Verstraeten's cool blue monoprints, in a show that offers plenty to admire. Through September 14. 1324 W. Clay, 713-522-4652. —MD

"Some Tree Rings, a Vision, and the Third of May" Peace signs and Mount Analogue. These two things have little in common, but to Emily Joyce, they serve the same purpose — as a seemingly endless source of inspiration. In "Some Tree Rings, a Vision, and the Third of May," now on view at Inman Gallery, the Los Angeles artist creates silk-screen prints that explore variations on abstract geometric shapes. The peace sign is one, though, like many of Joyce's influences, that may not be obvious. In the new silk-screen series "Third of May," wedges, arches and pie sections alternate in columns, almost dancing down the paper. The forms are all the same shapes and sizes, but the prints are all different colors, making for a nice optical effect. Another new silk-screen series from Joyce that explores continuity is "Tree Rings for Judith Pancake (Gold)." In four works, the artist almost attacks the cross-section of a gold and white tree trunk, adding daggers of color and even burning holes, or knots, onto the paper. The starting point for this series is, as the name implies, Judith Pancake, who provided the artwork for René Daumal's influential early-20th-century novel Mount Analogue. Joyce definitely experimented with these flat prints, giving each one its own character even though they all start out as concentric circles. The "vision" of the exhibition's title refers to a large print inspired by Piero della Francesca's Vision of Constantine, a largely blue work that plays on the tent in the 15th-century fresco through repeating triangular tent forms. This one is easy to miss — it's in the gallery's north viewing room — but worth seeking out. The references in these works are a tad random and largely obscure, which can cause a bit of a disconnect for the viewer. But even without knowing them, the colors and playful forms of Joyce's prints are enjoyable to behold. Through August 17. 3901 Main, 713-526-7800. — MD

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