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.
"Everyday People: 20th Century Photography from the Menil Collection" In 1956, the de Menils brought the legendary "The Family of Man" to Houston's Contemporary Arts Association [Museum]. It was a landmark show, but the Edward Steichen-curated exhibition evidenced an idealistic and hokey "It's a Small World" brand of humanism. The show inspired the de Menils as photography collectors, but their collection was also shaped by their interest in issues of social justice. The photographs of "Everyday People: 20th Century Photography from the Menil Collection," curated by Franklin Sirmans, curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Menil Collection, presents a much more blunt, realistic view of the world. The photographs span socioeconomic and ethnic groups and present images of hookers, mourners, communists, pool players, Nazis, newlyweds, protesters, nuns, soldiers, prisoners and more by legendary photographers such as James Van Der Zee, Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Sirmans has clustered the photographs salon-style on the walls like family photos. But unlike the typical display of family photos, he threw in all the relatives no one talks about. Through April 29. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400.
"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. Co-curator Rubin -- who's never been to Houston -- will come to town to give a talk at Lawndale on Wednesday, April 11, at 6:30 p.m. Exhibit runs through April 14. 4912 Main, 713-528-5858.
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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