Capsule Art Reviews: "2010 Glassell Core Exhibition", "Francesca Fuchs", "Iron: Forged, Tempered, Quenched", "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

"Francesca Fuchs" Fuchs's paintings have always carried an autobiographical element. A recent series focused on motherhood and represented a shift toward softer edges. It also felt like she was documenting her immediate domestic environment, as evidenced by paintings of her kitchen and furniture pieces. With this new series, she has moved on to painting artworks from her personal collection. Where the previous works exerted a narrative, something to engage the viewer, these seem designed to bore or even repel. They're paintings of paintings — earnest paintings, done in Fuchs's trademark taupe/pastel vision — as they hang on her walls. There's a sense of stasis to these, though, a feeling of being stuck; a lack of ideas. Is Fuchs turning to her collection for inspiration, a way out of a rut? Perhaps that's reductive, but there's little else, objectively, to go by in this show. In fact, when I asked whether the pieces represented were indeed ones from Fuchs's collection, Texas Gallery's curt reply was, "Paintings of paintings." We hope Fuchs's next muse shows up soon. Through March 27. 2012 Peden, 713-524-1593. — TS

"Iron: Forged, Tempered, Quenched" Showcasing iron and steel works in a variety of uses and forms, this show, which the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft calls "one of the most significant exhibitions of blacksmithed objects in decades," features impressive work from all over the country. Traditional, practical items and tools, like ax blades and shovels are displayed alongside wild sculpture, like a city of skyscrapers invaded by a giant, multiple-dragon-headed hydra, three tall, totem-like towers of steel, and bright-colored organic forms that look inspired by the cartoon mythology of Daniel Johnston. Strangely, though, it's the practical and nonrepresentational pieces that really stand out. There are some fine furniture pieces and wall sconces on exhibit, as well as abstract sculpture begging for some kind of unusual purpose. The Craft Center has plenty of extra info on the blacksmiths and where to find local ones too. Don't be afraid to ask for a price list. On view through May 16. 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — TS


"2010 Glassell Core Exhibition"

"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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