"Constructing a Poetic Universe: The Diane and Bruce Halle Collection of Latin American Art" The hits keep coming from the Latin American Art Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The current success is organized by Beverly Adams, curator of the Diane and Bruce Halle Collection. Because the show is drawn from a private collection, its organization isn't especially tight. Collectors buy what interests them; their collections are shaped by their personal taste instead of a curatorial agenda and that can be a really good thing. One of the standout works is a video piece by Venezuelan artist Javier Tllez, La Passion de Jeanne D'Arc [The Passion of Joan of Arc] (Rozelle Hospital) (2005). In the two-channel installation, a project for the 2005 Whitney Biennial, Tllez projects an altered version of Carl Theodor Dreyer's landmark 1928 silent film La Passion de Jeanne D'Arc on one wall. On the opposite wall, he projects a series of interviews with female patients from Rozelle Hospital in New South Wales. You glance back and forth between them like a tennis match. The parallels between the story of Joan of Arc's martyrdom and the treatment of these hospital patients who don't fit into the larger world are obvious, but Tllez's installation is anything but a one-liner. It's a richly moving exploration of the lives of these patients and society's response to mental illness. The Halles' collection is refreshing. They have bought strong work of tremendous variety, seeking out the best of what is out there, without pretending Latin American art can be defined by any one sensibility. Through June 10. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300.
"Ìs" The gallery at 4411 Montrose seems colder than ever this summer; Libbie Masterson has brought a breath of Icelandic air to the Gulf Coast at the perfect time. A painter and sculptor in previous incarnations, the artist lately has focused on photography, presenting her images as illuminated light-boxes. Many of the singular works here are wall-mounted, but a large installation of 13 panels in the center of the gallery breaks out of the flat plane more ambitiously, encompassing the viewer with nearly 360 degrees of imagery photographed in a barren sea of broken ice floes. The isolation of Iceland's Arctic environment is palpable. Masterson's imagery seems to have caught up with her imaginative presentation; unlike previous shows, this one is both aesthetically pleasing and political. The work explores the current climate scare; ironically, these beautiful light-boxes depicting Arctic glaciers are burning fuel as they emit light. As we grow into this 21st century, the intricacies and hypocrisies of our relationship to climate change are ever evident we can only hope that Masterson's observations are not just memories in a decade or two. Through June 16. Barbara Davis Gallery, 713-520-9200.
"Suspended Glances" This exploration of fractured narratives is the first exhibit organized by aspiring curator Merriann Bidgood, and this weathered warehouse space holds her concept together delicately. With small works and a large space, the show has a light physical presence, but the touching and personal work of each artist commands attention. Eric Pearce just can't help himself when it comes to illustrating scenes of Michael J. Fox from Teen Wolf his colored-pencil screen-captures look remarkably like celluloid film. Graphic designer Ray Ogar, who has collected stickers for years, cathartically digests them here on simple cardboard grounds. Martha Terrill collages together newspaper and magazine images of birds, butterflies and bits of text into slick, vintage-looking compositions that are masterfully prepared. On the other end of the spectrum, Tobin Becker lets his emotion bleed through in collaged, violent canvasses scrawled over with his own writings. Recent UH graduate Laura Bennett obsesses over identity in her midsize photographs of people wearing masks. They aren't as powerful as the more physical boxes and installations she has done in the past, but her photography still casts a strong, doubtful eye on the superficial world. Through June 10. Commerce Street Artists' Warehouse, 2315 Commerce St.
"Constructing a Poetic Universe: The Diane and Bruce Halle Collection of Latin American Art", "s", "Suspended Glances" and "Transformation 5: Contemporary Works in Found Materials"
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"Transformation 5: Contemporary Works in Found Materials" Whether it's the transformation of utilitarian objects into sculpture or fabric scraps into a quilt, the allure of "found" art lies in seeing a new value, perspective or form emerge from the ordinary, the banal. "Transformation 5" is a juried exhibition of 30 artists who competed for the prestigious Elizabeth R. Raphael Founders Prize, which recognizes excellence in the field of contemporary craft. The show includes decorative pieces, like Sharon McCartney's series of fabric collages, which overlap mostly green and gray tones and feel very countrified with their recurring bird imagery and lacy edges. There's also wonderful kitsch, like two "robot" sculptures: Toby A. Fraley's Feather Flite Robot and Linda and Opie O'Brien's The Emperor's Scribe. Fraley's is the more space-age one, with its jet-pack and halogen-light head and body made from discarded vacuum pieces. The O'Briens equip their (explicitly male) robot with an open-door torso filled with bric-a-brac: an old aspirin tin, printing blocks, tinker toys and pencils. The abstract pieces on display represent the best of the exhibit, because they demonstrate how fully and mysteriously these everyday objects can be manipulated. Amy Lipshie's Tomb, a strange, four-foot-tall sculpture resembling a foot, was made with woven strips of cereal boxes, beads, nylon thread and varnish. Rainbow-colored, it changes with the spectrum as one circles it. Most audacious is Parable by Jerry Bleem. The stretched and twisted hollow form has been covered in art magazine ads and then encased in staples from top to bottom. The outside emits a metallic gleam while the inside sparkles like quartz crystals. Through June 17 at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main, 713-529-4848.