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
"The Big Show 2007" Juror Rita Gonzalez, assistant curator of special exhibitions for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has managed to keep the crap quotient pretty low for "The Big Show 2007." Most of the unsuccessful work is only bad in an innocuous way, and she has managed to pull out some fairly interesting work from Houston's diverse art scene. Jeanne Cassanova's Somehow Inside Opalescent (2007) somehow makes candy-colored paint, glitter and floral fabric all work together in a really gorgeous way. Cassanova layers multiple line drawings with pools of pink and clear resin. Ebony Porter makes drawings with a minimalist bent. She uses tiny little dots of black acrylic paint to create geometric shapes on pristine white squares of paper, and the results are quite successful. Emily Umnus-Patrick has created a self-portrait bust, Me Me Emily (2007). Artfully sewn from felt and stuffed, the sculpture kind of looks like a giant Muppet, but it's way cooler and quirkier. Bexar's No Thanks? (2007) is pretty funny too — a slide of a man's face is projected large-scale on the wall, over giant nails sticking out from it. The nails seemingly tack up a raised eyebrow, yank down a lower eyelid and curl an upper lip more than Elvis ever could. There is a goodly amount of lame figurative work in the show, but one of the notable exceptions is L.A. Holloman's Incentive (2007), exquisitely rendered in oil on paper. Holloman skillfully combines two disparate images to wonderfully absurd effect. Across the bottom of the painting, a ragtag band of guerrillas gleefully hold automatic weapons aloft, while above them, giant, stylish, brightly colored espadrilles — seemingly straight out of a spring shoe ad — rain down from the sky. ¡Viva las Espadrilles! Through August 18. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — KK
"China Under Construction: Contemporary Art from the People's Republic" Curated by Beijing-based curator Maya Kóvskaya, this exhibition is intended to explore literal and figurative ideas of "construction." Wu Gaozhong's large photographs depict mold coating small ceramic objects. A pagoda, a bridge and an archway are all covered with layers of decay. Multicolored mold blooms over the objects' surfaces, partially obscuring the brightly colored ceramics and creating a lurid display. In these images, the symbols of China's past quietly molder away. At the entrance to the gallery is Han Bing's Age of Big Construction (2006); its documentary footage of construction and destruction focuses on bleak and decaying landscapes rather than shiny new Beijing skyscrapers. In the video, it looks like every old building is being torn down, and not by a wrecking ball but by a group of guys with sledgehammers. With over a billion people, labor is apparently far cheaper than heavy equipment. How many basket-carrying people does it take to equal a dump truck? Han gives you a glimpse of how brutal, widespread and backbreaking change is in China. Wanli Mari deals directly with the plight of China's workers by creating work based on newspaper reports of abuse. Called the Migrant Workers' Daily, after the People's Daily, the main government paper, Wanli's fiberglass reliefs mimic a newspaper layout, with an image and a Chinese caption below. The images have a quirky folk-art-meets-socialist-realism look to them. Gallery owner Deborah Colton has lived in Asia for years, and her decision to have Kóvskaya curate was a good one. Through August 31. Deborah Colton Gallery, 2500 Summer St., third floor, 713-864-5151. — KK
"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
"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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