Capsule Art Reviews: "2010 Glassell Core Exhibition", "David A. Brown: Trying to find my way...", "Dirty Secrets from the Cataract Cinema", "McKay Otto"

"2010 Glassell Core Exhibition" It's rare (and maybe impossible) that an annual Core Exhibition fires on all cylinders. There's always great anticipation and excitement leading up to the opening, followed by a kind of anticlimactic dud. But perhaps that's the nature of the Core program. It's a wide spectrum of sensibilities and mediums. Nevertheless, this year's Core Exhibition is worth checking out for the work of a few residents. Julie Ann Nagle's Sailing Toward a Hunch is a table-high sculpture made of polyurethane and resin, and it incorporates recognizable shapes and objects into a substance with both synthetic and organic qualities and resembling a huge pomegranate rind. Kelly Sears screens two of her recent video projects. In Excerpt From an Unrealized Story, divers soar and somersault against a blue-sky background, followed by the words "Coming Soon." Voice On The Line uncovers a hilarious government conspiracy called "Project Chatter" in which female telephone operators, with their soothing voices, trick citizens into revealing personal information. And Natasha Bowdoin's The World Below the Brine is an impressive acrylic wall mural in red, blue, gray and orange that interweaves ribbons of text, impossibly tangled into meaninglessness. Through April 16. Glassell School of Art, 5101 Montrose, 713-639-7500. — TS

"David A. Brown: Trying to find my way..." David A. Brown's recent photos address the way our brains process imagery. According to science, the brain analyzes 8,960 kilobits of information per second, and it's Brown's objective to freeze that process in a snapshot. He photographed buildings and storefronts in Houston (mostly downtown), catching angular reflections in windows that cast dense layers of imagery. The photos are remarkable for their ability to capture, all together, what our eyes and brains can only observe one picture at a time. One photo, Washington Ave/chest of drawers with trees, captures a furniture-store window displaying a chest of drawers, but the reflection in the glass casts trees that look as if they're perched on top of the chest, along with a ghostly vase of flowers. Downtown scenes are rendered in gorgeous architectural grids, stacking industrial components, like air-conditioning ducts, against blue skies and clouds. Brown's prints would be beautiful developed as is, but he goes a step further, displaying them in 3-D (like those Jesus pictures where his eyes blink when you move your head). The extra touch adds a sense of confusion, altering our perception of illusion and reality. It's captivating work. Through April 30. Darke Gallery, 5321 Feagan, 713-542-3802. — TS

"Dirty Secrets from the Cataract Cinema" This exhibit of photography by Dan Havel and Chuck Ivy utilizes motion picture imagery to explore themes of time, history and physical degradation. Ivy wrote software to reduce a minute's worth of feature film footage into a single frame. His large C-prints capture moments from movies like Brazil, Naked Lunch, Mirrormask and The Matrix in stunning, hazy amalgamations, as if the image is throbbing with movement from within. Ivy's video piece condenses the entire length of the film Blade Runner into a minute-long blur of frozen shots and long exposures, which somehow manages to encapsulate the movie's moody atmosphere. Havel took still frames from film reels he discovered in an abandoned X-rated-movie theater and blew them up big, emphasizing the damaged emulsion and deep, saturated color, creating sculptural images that exude a nostalgic and viscerally erotic vibe. His video piece, Kiss/Scream, is a digital transfer of '70s porn footage that pulses with hot-pink degraded emulsion, amplifying the ecstatic expressions of the actors while recontextualizing pornography into a more innocent era. Through April 17. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — TS

"McKay Otto" According to Wade Wilson Art, McKay Otto's paintings "serve as merely portals or doors which enable us to enter into communication with the impersonal state of being." Far out, man. But don't be scared; you won't slip into a Donnie Darko time warp — they're just trippy paintings. There is something soothing about Otto's canvases, which are dominated by fuzzy pastel circles and sometimes circles within circles, resembling hazy targets. Otto has also augmented his canvases by stretching treated nylon mesh over them, which gives the images a frosty appearance — an odd but effective technique that adds an interesting counterpoint to many of the pieces' warm-and-sunny vibes. But before you leave, don't forget to ask one of the gallery staff to flick on the blacklights. Suddenly, the paintings turn psychedelic and fluorescent, looking like wall projections gently pulsing in the ultraviolet glow, and it's visually impressive. I wouldn't say there's anything particularly spiritual, "trans-­dimensional" or sublime about them, as Otto himself describes his own work, but some people (and you know who you are) definitely will. Through March 27. 4411 Montrose, 713-521-2977. — TS

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