"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.
"Carlos Cruz-Diez" Sicardi Gallery presents an exhibition of work by the 83-year-old veteran of optically kinetic art. Carlos Cruz-Diez's low-tech optically kinetic work is made with thin stripes of color, painted or silk-screened, separated by slender strips of Plexiglas to conceal and reveal shifting colors as the viewer moves past them. Sicardi, as well as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, have shown examples of this work before, but the current exhibition reveals some of the octogenarian's other retinal forays. Transchromie (1965) hangs in the entryway to the gallery. It's a pretty amazing piece created with simple components. Long, slender planks of thin Plexiglas are hung on end from the ceiling in rows and lines. The translucent colors -- red, yellow, gray, orange and blue -- blend and create stripes of shifting color as the viewer moves around the piece. It's a seemingly simple idea, but the effect is phenomenal. Environment Chromointerfrent, an installation from 1975 re-created in 2007, is pretty great too. Three projectors send video with a series of moving lines into a room. The video covers the walls and runs over white cubes, a sphere and a hanging cylinder in the room. The lines warp as they move over the geometric volumes -- and the viewer. With his new work, he's embracing today's technology but still using the same principles of the '75 installation. It's great to see Cruz-Diez's optical inventiveness adapt itself to new media. Through May 12. 2246 Richmond, 713-529-1313.
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"Sam Gilliam: a retrospective" In 1968, Sam Gilliam dispensed with the convention of wooden painting stretchers and simply used the canvas itself, gathering, draping and suspending it. Gilliam's "draped" paintings were a groundbreaking idea from an artist unafraid of experimentation and change. This show presents examples of the artist's ever-evolving work, from 1967 to the present. When Gilliam decided to dispense with the painting stretcher, it was a pretty revolutionary decision. Artists have applied paint to board, stretched canvas and other taut supports for centuries. Gilliam was applying paint to a piece of canvas but taking that canvas and putting it out in the world as a three-dimensional object, one whose shape would alter with every installation. Light Depth (1969) is a 10-by-75-foot length of canvas. Gilliam knotted it in five places, creating baroque swags of color. One of the swags is cinched up with a string, breaking its sweep. Although Gilliam continues to work with draped paintings, he has always engaged in other experiments. Many of the ones included in this show are less than successful. Several gunky shaped canvases from the early '80s have an unredeemable feeling about them. Gilliam's work from the 21st century is much more appealing. He's still piecing together geometric shapes into larger panels, but they aren't nearly as involved as earlier works. They seem much more confident and less frenetic. Through May 6. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250.