Art Capsule Reviews
"Allison Hunter: New Animals" "New Animals" is a continuation of Allison Hunter's "Simply Stunning" series, which showed at New York's 511 Gallery last year. The Houston-based photographer's recent work concentrates largely on animals, and the images reflect a progression toward emancipating creatures from the worldly environment. Sheep and deer inhabit pinkish-gray realms that resemble threatening desert sandscapes, and yet the animals' tameness and passivity feel amplified, more so than if they were depicted in a natural setting. Some photos feature lone animals encased in blackness, like Untitled 10, in which a sole chicken, brightly illuminated by an unknown source, stalks the ground for food against almost invisible traces of its farm environment. In Untitled 7, a miniature horse proudly sports its red saddle (unencumbered by screaming children, maybe?) below a starless void. The effect is a kind of Usher Syndrome a condition in which the deaf develop an encroaching blindness of nature and logic, except in Hunter's world circumstances aren't in disorder. On the contrary, the animals seem right at home in their non-universe. Though August 17. MKG Art Management, 2825 Colquitt, 713-526-4146. TS
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
"LU" It sure is nice to see so much work by Paul Kittelson these days. The group show "LU" at the ArtCar Museum presents several of the artist's great works from the past two years. Kittelson has cast a truck in papier-mch; it stands perilously, thanks to the good graces of a small wooden armature. This wry inversion sets the tone of the rest of his work, whether it's life-size or super-size. Several six-foot cigarettes, a gigantic kernel of popcorn and other sculptures dominate the main gallery. These works converse with Carter Ernst's giant housefly-obsessed art. Ernst's largest fly eyes an oversize powdered doughnut by Kittelson; drawings of flies line the walls behind sculptures of various materials. In the back gallery, a collection of encaustic paintings by Deborah Moore demonstrate the versatility of the marginalized medium once favored by Jasper Johns. Visitors can also view the exhibit of stereoscopic images by Jan Burandt, a nostalgic drawing by David Kidd and Abu Ghraib puppet torture dioramas by Mary Jenewein outside the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. But don't just look for art in the galleries you can also peruse the parking lot for fresh art cars. Through July 22. 140 Heights Blvd., 713-861-5526. SC
"Allison Hunter: New Animals", City Glow, "LU", "Old Is New" and "When the Animals Rebel"
"Old Is New" Subconscious logic dictates the imagery of "Old Is New," the current show at the Houston Arts Alliance's Space 125 Gallery. The trio of artists showing are recent HAA grant recipients. Robbie Austin's paintings on quad wood panels blend human silhouettes with hippie symbols: rainbows, hearts, tie-dye. Golden Bliss explicitly reveals the artist's preoccupation with Rorschach prints, a touchstone that repeats through the six pieces on display. Catherine Colangelo's colorful gouache-and-pencil patterns resemble otherworldly mandalas. Some are two-sided images on translucent paper, displayed between plates of glass, so a kind of watermark appears from both directions. Absurd text, such as "Waterskiing Over Waterfalls," inhabits certain pieces, like weird phrases that only make sense in dreams. Iconography meets politics in Anthony Thompson Shumate's Stations series. The stained-glass windows worship the commercial signage of gas stations. In one, a Conoco sign towers above desert palm trees. In another, biblical-looking storm clouds loom behind a monolithic Chevron sign. They are dead-on representations of America's adulation of commodity. Through July 26. 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-9330. TS
"When the Animals Rebel" The fifth installation of Rice Gallery's Summer Window series is a striking combination of painting and sculpture incorporating thousands of hardcover books, stacked against and affixed to the 16-by-44-foot wall behind the gallery's glass facade. When the Animals Rebel is Los Angeles-based artist Mike Stilkey's expressionist fantasia, which imagines a clash between humans and animals. Stilkey claims he knew nothing of the German painter Otto Dix (1891-1969), although Stilkey's spindly human representations bear an uncanny resemblance to the German expressionist's work. One could conceivably spend an hour or two perusing the book spines, titles and illustrations on display, stepping up close and retreating back to take in the massive work. The range of book titles includes Herman Wouk's The Winds of War, Ivana Trump's For Love Alone and even a series of old Rice Campanile yearbooks. Stilkey's happily revolting animals seem to swarm and overwhelm their sad-eyed human opponents, one of whom is an elegantly rendered caricature of a young Bob Dylan. It's perhaps a reference to the wonderfully lyrical and poetic environment of the piece. On view through August 31. 6100 Main, 713-348-6069. TS
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