"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

"Impressions | Abstractions" "Impressions | Abstractions," which opened at Sicardi Gallery, showcases the work of 20th-century Latin American artists Carlos Cruz-Diez, Jesús-Rafael Soto, Julio Le Parc, Luis Tomasello, Sérvulo Esmeraldo, León Ferrari and Gego. The works of the seven artists make clear the distinctions in printmaking, from color to technique. In comparing Cruz-Diez, Soto and Tomasello, it's possible to make an argument for why printmaking is such a versatile medium. Cruz-Diez and Soto are Venezuelan artists who both studied at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Aplicadas and were early adopters of the kinetic art movement. Because of this, their art is similar; striped horizontal and vertical lines make up the crux of their respective works. However, while Soto's lines move up and down black-and-gray sculptures (Escriture), Cruz-Diez is more liberal with color. Usually a serigraph is a process in which an image is stenciled into a mesh screen. Ink is applied to the part of the screen not covered by the stencil, which is then squeezed through, creating a superimposed image. Cruz-Diez's process is unique in that he combines silk screen and lithography with digital printing. The result is a work boasting 50 shades of color, as in the translucent rainbows of Induction chromatique à double fréquence, (1990). The piece is a pigment chromagraphy on Plexiglas, a process that allows color to bleed and blend, so that what begins as blue and orange mixes, turning the top into a striking rainbow of colors. Tomasello, on the other hand, produces "lithographs," in which ink is placed onto a stone or metal surface, then followed by a sheet of paper that removes the ink from the stone, creating the image. His pieces have white backgrounds with blushes of color applied in strategic positions. Atmosphère Chromoplastique No. 914 (2009), an acrylic-on-wood piece, is divided into squares created by four horizontal or vertical lines. The vertical-line squares have a green tint, causing them to stick out more, heightening the acrylic piece. The lines in Cruz-Diez and Soto's kinetic pieces are also present in Tomasello's, revealing that even though each printmaker's work is different and special in its own way, the repeated, recognizable themes of lines, dots, pictures and other types of imagery are what makes the practice of printmaking so interesting. Through August 31. 1508 W. Alabama, 713-529-1313. — AO

"Summer Studios 2013" Project Row Houses' "Summer Studios 2013" exhibition opened with a hotter than hot mid-August reception that showcased seven artistically transformed row houses — six filled with the art of individual undergraduate art students and one completed by a group, Rice University's Houston Action Research Team (HART). The houses couldn't be more different from each other — in content and execution. Maggie Hooyman's "Sharing, Understanding and Expanding" is perhaps the least artistically strenuous of the seven but the most inclusive. Markers, paintbrushes and bottles of paint are set up throughout the house. A sweet little note invites viewers to grab a bottle, a brush or a marker and decorate at will. The final product is a rainbow of colors and shapes splayed freely throughout, with positive phrases like "Peace, Hope, Faith" written on walls. Another dynamic art house is Byron Harris's "Hammocks and Music Boxes," a work that disproves economist John Maynard Keynes's prediction that in the future, Americans will enjoy the luxury of a "15-hour working week." Visualizing this involves the use of various pieces of colored string hung throughout the house. The most telling strings are the ones laced throughout a wooden bed frame. Bed frames are usually reinforced with strong wire that mattresses, and ultimately people, rest on. By replacing the wire with string, Harris proves the argument that the bed and, by extension, leisure have become obsolete. Jessie Anderson's "House," at 2509 Holman, is a literally grassroots work. The artist collected found objects, located "within a 15-block radius of this spot," and placed each on the walls of her art house. By doing this, Anderson created a tribute to the natural community of Third Ward. This is equally celebratory and depressing: That these castaway pieces are so easily found in the community reveals an apathetic habit of haphazardly throwing items into lots, yards and streets. "House," then, is a metaphor for Third Ward. Pollution crowds the streets; there is still work to be done. Aldo Rodan's "The Struggle Continues: a Depiction of Mexican Dreams and Hopes," at 2511 Holman, depicts four "dead" bodies: three on the floor and the fourth hanging by toes from the ceiling. The scene, Rodan says, reveals the horror of Mexican drug cartels and the innocents caught in the crossfire. Rodan created the bodies by covering mannequins in a substance he calls "fabric stiffener" and cloaking each with a gray sheet. Haunting. Through September 8. 2521 Holman, 713-526-7662. — AO

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