Art Capsule Reviews
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
"Dimensions of Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection" For a scholarly and thoughtful approach to collecting, check out this exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. During an almost 50-year period, Adolpho Leirner carefully and systematically assembled works of Brazilian geometric abstraction, buying much of his collection in the 1960s, not when the works were "RED HOT" but when they had fallen from fashion. Leirner's careful collecting ensured that important works from a seminal period in Brazilian art were saved. In his exhibition catalog essay, the collector writes, "It never occurred to me to acquire a painting for speculative purposes." The MFAH now owns the collection, and works from it have been included in two recent exhibitions organized by the museum's outstanding — and well-funded — Latin American Art department, "Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America" and "Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color." It's wonderful when the MFAH chooses to put its considerable resources to good use, not only acquiring and exhibiting strong private collections but also using those works to supplement their own scholarship. It would be great to see more of that kind of thing in the future, maybe, say, in contemporary Asian art... Through September 23. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300. — KK
"Ellen Orseck: Storms, Sumos and Sweets" Ellen Orseck's paintings of sumo wrestlers and cupcakes, as well as tornadoes, are nestled snugly in the warm, intimate gallery of UH Downtown. In energetic paintings culled from photographs, the small plastic sumo wrestler parades and pantomimes on a dining room table with cupcakes and sweets. He's caught devouring frosting, eyeing his next bite and placidly staring as the cake itself takes the artist's attention. Orseck's brush strokes are thicker than usual here, making for evocative cakes and pies, but the strokes aren't quite as creamy as butter cream. In another work of stop-motion animation, the soft-toy protagonist is repeatedly frozen in a block of ice and thawed out, his smiling face none the worse for wear. Orseck's tiny watercolor paintings of tornadoes, a separate body of work, repeat their subject in simple color variations that hold little of a real storm's power. The intimate veins of bleeding ink lend movement to the twisters, but their standardized composition — each threatens a solitary house — doesn't help them as a group. Through October 11. O'Kane Gallery, One Main, 713-221-8042. — SC
City Glow, "Dimensions of Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection," "Ellen Orseck: Storms, Sumos and Sweets," "Intertwined: Contemporary Baskets from the Sara and David Lieberman Collection," "Practice Makes Perfect"
"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
"Practice Makes Perfect" Curator Jeff Ward has tamed work by the wildly varying artists at the Glassell School into a linear, illuminating exhibit about repetition and reproduction. Amy Lorino's photographs echo each other in form; she concentrates on symmetrical compositions, often focusing on school halls and doorways. Judith Freedman's small bust sculptures vary slightly in each incarnation, lending them underlying personality. Lillian Warren has shown extensively in town while taking classes at the Glassell; her paintings recording familiar views along feeder roads are solid, repetitive and insistent. From the opposite end of the spectrum comes Bobbye Bennett, whose watercolor paintings evoke aboriginal patterning and emotional organic life. But the most exciting project featured is the collaborative Stranger Drawings, realized by Emily Grenader and dozens of Houstonians. Grenader solicited anonymous photographs from people on the street and on Web site Craig's List, then distributed them to artists to create their own versions of the photos. The result is a cacophony of styles as diverse as the people involved, and at the opening the air was buzzing with excitement as the photograph donors first saw what their personal images had become in the hands of artists like David Ubias and Seneca Garcia. Finally, if you missed your opportunity to see the documentary Hot Town, Cool City, take a few minutes and stop by the Glassell to check out Maureen McNamara's documentary on Houston's art scene. Through November 2. 5101 Montrose, 713-639-7500. — SC
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