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
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
"Allison Hunter: New Animals", "Black Light/White Noise: Sound and Light in Contemporary Art", City Glow, "Dick Wray", "LU", "Tjukurrpa: Aboriginal Paintings of the Dreamtime: New Works from Ikuntji" and "When the Animals Rebel"
"Dick Wray" This amiable artist has been exhibiting his dense paintings for 50 years, ever since he graduated from the University of Houston back in 1958. In vibrant abstract work, he drops hints of figures but obscures them with emotional brush strokes and scratched lines. Channeling an urgency, Wray's work is naive yet sculptured. He uses a palette of complementary combinations, occasionally dripping and splattering his energetic patterns and shapes. Here his work is painterly and bright, with collage and transferred images in some works. Previous incarnations at the Station in 2004 and ArtScan in 2000 employed obscene black-ink doodles and printed canvases layered in paint, but Wray is consistent in his appreciative homage to the abstract expressionists of the mid-20th century. Through July 7. Wade Wilson Art, 4411 Montrose, 713-521-2977. 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
"Tjukurrpa: Aboriginal Paintings of the Dreamtime: New Works from Ikuntji" On Feagan in the booming West End sits an exotic treat for art lovers in Houston. The works in this exhibition, a group show by artists from the isolated Ikuntji region of Australia's West MacDonnell Mountains, incorporate the traditional stippled designs of Aboriginal bark painting, but also diverge from standardized styles. The flat planes and distorted perspectives, in primary colors with overt outlines, are similar to those of American folk art, depicting life in Ikuntji with their simplified imaginative shapes. In a significant break from stereotypical Aboriginal technique, Daisy Napaltjarri Jugadai paints the surface of her canvases with flat brush strokes depicting real space, at once from above and at eye level. This exhibit is a divergence from the traditional styles of artists from Alice Springs and Amata, deepening our understanding of Australia's diverse community of artists. Through July 12 at Booker-Lowe Gallery, 4623 Feagan St., 713-880-1541. SC
"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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