City Glow Self-styled Pop Art star Chiho Aoshima emerged out of the "factory" art group founded in Tokyo in the late '90s by Takashi Murakami. Her computer-generated images reference manga comics and anime cartoons, with wide-eyed characters and line drawings. Like Murakami, Aoshima believes in the contributions pop genres have made to the art world at large. Tucked away underground in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Chiho Aoshima's installation City Glow (2005) sits behind a cafe and next to the escalators. Don't feel bad for her, though: James Terrell's The Light Inside tunnel and Damien Hirst's installation End Game are good company in the basement. The cyclical piece is told through a five-screen animated video of telescoping layers that comments on deteriorating climate conditions. Plants, animals and anthropomorphic skyscrapers grow, bloom and die throughout the course of the seven-minute piece, perhaps predicting the death of civilization as the balanced world of the opening scenes mutates into a nightmare apocalypse set in a blood-red graveyard. Highly recommended for Nipponophiles or anyone bored with painting and sculpture. Through October 21. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300. — SC
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"The David Whitney Bequest" "The David Whitney Bequest," currently on view at the Menil Collection, is a strange little exhibition of works from Whitney's collection, which were bequeathed to the Menil. The show is curious for its double-sided mission. On one hand, it's a wonderful sampling of works by contemporary art legends like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol – and, in a sense, the world and scene they represented. On the other, it's a window into the mind of a collector: Whitney's championing of, and influence on, modern artists. Whitney reserved perhaps the bulk of his interest for Jasper Johns. This exhibit contains 17 works on paper by Johns, spanning the artist's entire career, with works made as recently as 2004. There's also Cy Twombly's Untitled (1959), a pencil on paper squigglefest that, at first, looks like it belongs on a proud parent's refrigerator door. Time spent in reflection is always rewarded with Twombly, though, and the work responds by revealing an intricate, well-composed pattern. Don't miss three of Robert Rauschenberg's early transfer paintings, contemporaneous of Warhol's early silk screens. Ghostly impressions of baseball players, horses and other Texas-inspired imagery haunt the hazy, greenish realms of these works. Not surprisingly, on the opposite wall from the Rauschenbergs is Warhol's 1980 portrait David Whitney. An intense black-and-white snapshot of Whitney with his fingers clasped under his chin, it brilliantly anchors the exhibit. Three tones of gray fan elegantly across the painting, the middle one perfectly zoning Whitney's eyes, which seem to say, "Gaze upon my influence and impeccable taste." Through October 28. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400. — TS
"Intertwined: Contemporary Baskets from the Sara and David Lieberman Collection" For many, basket weaving is one of those crafts that stereotypically symbolizes the ultimate in boredom; the last bastion of activity when one has nothing better to do. With this exhibit, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft has effectively shattered that stereotype. The exhibit does contain examples of the decorative-yet-utilitarian baskets one would expect, but the show's vast majority of objects (more than 70 on display) are abstract sculptures. It's as if these artists set out to make traditional ornate baskets — and then the acid kicked in. Fran Reed's basket looks like it would work fine for carrying stuff; it's made out of dried silver salmon skins with the tails, fins and scales still on. Naoko Serino's The Ball You Blow is a seven-by-seven-by-seven-inch cube made of a hardened, wispy, cottony fiber. Inside, a sphere (made of the same material) floats — it's unclear how; the strange vortexes whirling on each side of the cube may have something to do with it. Perhaps the most bizarre piece is Jan Hopkins's Eye of the Beholder, a female bust made of grapefruit peel, waxed linen, hemp paper and lotus pods. The sculpture's grapefruit-peel face resembles a Lucha Libre mask. It encapsulates the unpredictability of this exhibit. Who would have thought Mexican wrestling and basket weaving could somehow coalesce? Through September 23. 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — TS
City Glow|"The David Whitney Bequest"|"Intertwined: Contemporary Baskets from the Sara and David Lieberman Collection"|"Perspectives 157: Xaviera Simmons"|"War and Remembrance"
"Perspectives 157: Xaviera Simmons" Xaviera Simmons's installation at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston will make you lament the passing of the LP. Simmons has covered the walls of the downstairs gallery with vintage album covers from her collection of recordings by black artists. Dinky CDs and image-free digital mp3 records lack the impact of those album cover visuals and their provocative, creative images that sometimes became as iconic as the music itself. The densely packed albums of the installation are a nostalgia trip as well as a visual record of the massive role black artists have played in music and popular culture. There are album covers from jazz greats such as John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy as well as funk artists such as Bootsy Collins and rap icons such as Tupac. There are albums from people you never even knew sang — Jasmine Guy's "Don't Want Money," anyone? Then there are people you forgot about, such as Grace Jones, and people that you wanted to forget about, such as, say, El DeBarge. Through September 16. 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250. — KK
"War and Remembrance" The iconic February 23, 1945 photograph of five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Iwo Jima is perhaps the most grand, dramatic and soul-stirring image of American military action ever captured. It's a surprise, then, to see the earliest known print of that photograph displayed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's "War and Remembrance" exhibit. The print of the photo, taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Joe Rosenthal, is smaller than a postcard. It has the effect of a tightly packed firecracker, which would eventually explode like an atom bomb. Also on display are photographs by Robert Capa, often called the greatest war photographer. His D-Day photos were severely damaged, but the blurriness and high contrast — as seen in a horrifying image of an American soldier swimming to shore — convey the chaos, fear and bravery of that battle. The most stunning image of the exhibit, though, might be one that addresses the casualties of war — Henri Huet's 1966 photo of the body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near Cambodia, being raised into an evacuation helicopter. It almost looks as if the body is falling — or even diving — in a blissful and selfless act of sacrifice. Through September 16. MFAH Caroline Wiess Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300. — TS