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.

"Never Been to Houston" For their exhibition at Lawndale Art Center, curators Andrea Grover and Jon Rubin found people who had never been to Houston. Then they asked them to take photographs of what they thought Houston looked like. The images are presented as a slideshow in Lawndale's Mezzanine Gallery. The results are revealing and often hilarious, with movies, TV and the Internet playing a major role in shaping outsider impressions. An Italian, Francesco Nonino, took pictures of traffic and paired them with shots from Houston TranStar. An Iranian artist, Amirali Ghasemi, took pictures of a road through a desert and a woman with big hair, lots of makeup and a cowboy hat playing the guitar. The Australians were the most smart-ass: Peter Edmunds took a shot of a skyscraper, PhotoShopped a huge black cloud of smoke coming out of the top and slapped the Enron logo on the front of the building. Ouch. "Never Been to Houston" is a rare chance to see what the rest of the world thinks of us. Exhibit runs through April 14. 4912 Main, 713-528-5858.


"Allison Hunter: New Animals"

"The Pump that Jack Used" "Since 2001, the top five oil companies in the United States have recorded profits of $342.4 billion through the first quarter of 2006," reads Anthony Thompson Shumate's artist's book The Pump that Jack Used. Mimicking a children's picture book sponsored by a fictitious oil company, The Pump follows oil from source to consumer, and it's part of his installation by the same name at the Art League Houston. In his research, Shumate discovered that many of the same 15 people sit on the boards of the top five oil companies; his exhibition includes flow charts and portraits of desk chairs to symbolize the 15. Shumate is following in the investigative art footsteps of the late artist Mark Lombardi, whose drawings diagrammed the players of political and business scandals. Last year, Shumate gave us Club Gitmo, an evening that sardonically presented the Guantnamo Bay detention facility as a resort (guests ate detainee meals with a safety spork). Shumate, who was in advertising and has six ADDY awards under his belt, can flawlessly imitate corporate-identity materials, and he's relying on that skill a little too heavily. He's got some intriguing ideas, but he needs to push them further. Through April 27. 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530.

tape10 Rebecca Ward's got a way with duct tape and a gift for measuring. She's put both those skills to good use in her installation, tape10. To set the stage for her work, Ward turned Lawndale Art Center's third floor gallery into a pristine white box by covering the floor with white vinyl. The ceiling is where everything happens. Ward used duct tape in shades of blue and green to create precise patterns of stripes on the ceiling. Loops of duct tape hang down from the stripes, starting small and getting bigger until they almost touch the ground. The tape casts linear shadows on the walls and becomes a dynamic sculptural presence in the room. Ward has taken a ubiquitous and prosaic material and made it fabulous -- except it still has that duct tape smell. You'd never guess she just got her B.A. in Studio Art from the University of Texas in 2006; tape10 looks like the product of a far more seasoned artist. Through April 14. 4912 Main, 713-528-5858.


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