Art Capsule Reviews
".....all of the above" Judy Pfaff is considered a pioneer of installation art, and she's got the MacArthur Fellowship to prove it. Her latest offering is awash in fluorescent oranges, blues, yellows, greens and purples, giving the space a decided Tron feel, sans digitized crotch rockets and wacky helmets. White discs are piled on the floor and hung from the ceiling, overlapping each other in a lopsided fashion, looking like ready-to-topple stacks of pocket change. In the center of the room, round rods of white steel spin around in off-kilter funnels. DayGlo strings span the space, running next to each other in grids, their colors activated by dangling ultraviolet lights. The walls have been marked with dyed string, creating sloppy grids to complement those crisscrossing the open space. But the environment isn't all circles and straight lines. Set up in juxtaposition to those elements are dangling vines, gathered from the artist's upstate New York estate and dyed black, gnarled around the space and often kept in place by strings attached to weights. Bright colors, strict lines, gnarled vines -- ".....all of the above" is definitely worth a look. Through April 1 at Rice University Art Gallery, 6100 Main, 713-348-6069.
"Chris Sauter" Artist Chris Sauter has amazing construction skills. He's made dining room sets out of Sheetrock, morphed recliner upholstery into a volcano and slip-covered a recliner and an oven in plaid fabric. Sauter's work is appealingly oddball, but sometimes it gets away from him and becomes convoluted. His current show at Finesilver Gallery is a case in point. He's done a whole installation combining a workshop, debris from the artist's home-remodeling project and a giant uterus, complete with ovaries. It's some sort of tangent on gestation and creation in the context of artist and artwork. The walls of the gallery are lined with various uterus drawings. A toolshed houses the giant model of a uterus which is primarily constructed from old paneling and has a plaid lining. The ovaries are compellingly constructed from spray foam insulation. Meanwhile, the floor of the workshop is littered with debris and on the wall is a drawing that circuitously links the project to the artist's previous constructions, er, gestations -- like the 1999 oven/recliner combo. Photos and old sketchbooks with notes are also supplied, but it's not really interesting enough to try to follow along; Sauter is getting a little too self-involved. The standout of the show is a pink ovary that extends from the wall; it's cut into a cross-section with little silver eggs. Sauter has attached a toy crane to the whole thing. It's beautifully crafted and just weird enough. Through April 14. 3913 Main, 713-524-3733.
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.
"Witnesses to a Surrealist Vision" A 1950s Hopi Kachina doll based on Mickey Mouse, a coconut seed that looks like a butt and a creepy-looking 18th- or 19th-century "Wildman" leather suit studded with leather spikes from the dark recesses of Germany or Switzerland are among the 133 objects coexisting in the intimate space of "Witnesses to a Surrealist Vision," an ongoing show at the Menil Collection. All of the objects in this exhibition were either owned by the surrealists or are similar to those that they collected, according to the exhibition text. And the 130 remaining objects are all equally weird. Tucked into a small, darkly lit room in the back of the Menil's permanent surrealist exhibition, "Witnesses" is a treasure trove of amazing, eclectic objects. It re-creates the idea of the Wunderkammer ("room of wonders"), a cabinet of curiosities -- natural and unnatural, real and fake. It's a wonderful insight into the surrealist vision, as well as a provocative juxtaposition of objects from all over the world, with an emphasis on works from Africa and Oceania. The tiny space is one of the jewels of the Menil Collection, but one you might forget about in the midst of all its temporary exhibitions. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400.
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