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

"Black Light/White Noise: Sound and Light in Contemporary Art" The artists of this installation-oriented show at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston are African-American, hence the "Black Light" of the title. But few of the pieces actually reflect a distinct black cultural perspective. And attempting to connect one to the art doesn't really yield significant results. Mostly, the connection here is the light/noise aspect of the work. Unfortunately, the curating feels haphazard and aimless, and certain pieces feel as if the artists' intentions have been mishandled. Arthur Jafa's My Black Death seems like it was improperly installed. It's a black car, a '70s Pontiac Trans Am, impaled and enveloped by a black frame. A crushed metal sculpture lies on the floor at the back end of the car. The catalog mentions that the piece was exhibited in a darkened space (ArtPace in San Antonio) where the Trans Am could barely be seen. That sounds much more interesting than the incarnation at the CAMH, where the piece has been placed in close proximity to the brightest-shining work in the entire exhibit (Nadine Robinson's Wormwood). As a result, the car is flooded with light, and its power is drained like a vampire in the sun. And where was the "distorted music emanating from the car's trunk," as the catalog states? It would've been a nice touch, but alas, no music. Wormwood, on the other hand, is impressive. It's a huge seven-point star covered in 500 lightbulbs, and it emits real heat. Sunglasses are recommended for viewing it, especially if you get really close. Inspired by the Book of Revelation, Wormwood symbolizes the "third angel's great star of destruction." Black or not, there's a talented group of contemporary artists showing their work at the CAMH. Through August 5. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250. — TS

"Give Up vs.YAR!" No doubt you've seen the ubiquitous posters with the recurring razor-blade motif on Montrose electrical boxes, billboards and exterior walls. Funny, disturbing, powerful and provocative, they're the calling cards of Give Up, an anonymous graffiti artist. He shares this show with YAR!, another artist with a graffiti background whose work has been sighted along the Hwy 59 sound wall. It's interesting to see these pieces, particularly Give Up's, in the context of a gallery show, rather than from the street, where they have a completely different relationship to their environment. In the Domy Books gallery, the Give Up posters hang legally, sheltered from the elements and advertising the merchandise for sale: Give Up prints, T-shirts and 'zines, and this drains the work of its power. One wishes Give Up had followed more in the footsteps of YAR!, whose postcard-sized watercolors of very worried-looking people and creatures — they mirror his graffiti imagery — feel fully comfortable, hoodie-down, in a gallery context. If Give Up gave us a new series perhaps, works specifically developed for a gallery showing, now that would be exciting. Through August 17. 1709 Westheimer, 713-523-3669. — TS


"Allison Hunter: New Animals", "Black Light/White Noise: Sound and Light in Contemporary Art", "Give Up vs.YAR!", "Old Is New" and "Raw"

"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

"Raw" Like the current "Give Up vs. YAR!" show at Domy Books, "Raw" is another urban-themed show hung in a boutique. Premium Goods sells shoes and T-shirts that appeal to enthusiasts of hip-hop, tattoos and graffiti art. Appropriately, "Raw" represents artists that may aspire to design marketing campaigns selling such products. One can imagine many of the images and motifs in "Raw" silk-screened onto T-shirts or emblazoned on a pair of Vans or Pumas. In fact, be prepared for a salesperson, or two, or three, to ask if you need help with anything. The curator, Melinda Mosheim (her artwork is also on display), says many pieces have been sold since the opening, and it's easy to see why. This work appeals to a young generation; it has a pop, graphic quality; and it's modestly priced for greenhorn collectors. Premium Goods takes a paltry gallery fee, too, so artists reap the lion's share of sales. James Burns's "Josh Martinez," an acrylic-and-aerosol painting on Plexiglas, depicts a young man holding up a Nike sneaker. Above him, in italic text, reads: "I've paid my dues; now I've gotta pay my bills." It makes perfect sense. Mosheim finds pieces of wheat-pasted advertising posters, some layers and layers thick, mounts them on wood and meticulously "weathers" them, revealing images and slogans. Mosheim's tear patterns are fascinating; "Her Majesty's Most Trusted," in particular, resembles a glacier plastered in publicity. Through August 17. 2416 Times Blvd., 713-523-8825. — TS


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