"2010 School of Art Annual Student Exhibition" Student shows are an inherently mixed bag, but they are also a great place to find developing artists doing interesting things. With works that range from the gusty to the polished to the absurd, the University of Houston's "2010 School of Art Annual Student Exhibition" at the Blaffer Gallery is no exception (although, restricted to undergrad seniors and nongraduating grad students, it's less mixed than most). Crumbling on the lawn as you enter the Blaffer is Jack Eriksson's very Texas cast of the entire driver's side of a Ford F-150. It's got some issues to be sorted out, but kudos to anyone deranged enough to cast half a truck. Inside the gallery, Travis Garner's psychologically evocative portrait, Eyes Glazed at the Thought of the Next Day, is skillfully executed in an academic manner that is just odd enough to keep it interesting. Seen through the open door of a bathroom, a plump woman in a striped towel sits on the lid of a toilet staring into space with a slightly stunned expression. Meanwhile, Natali Leduc's Rube Goldberg-ian sculpture, The bookatron: the origin of rain, uses a lot of lumber to create a massive pedal-powered flip book. Take that, iPad. Through March 13. 120 Fine Arts Building, University of Houston, 713-743-9521. — KK
"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
"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
"2010 School of Art Annual Student Exhibition"
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"Ron Hoover — A Retrospective: 1972-2006" The Art Car Museum is to be commended for this exhibit, which traces the career of one of Texas's most uncompromising artists. Ron Hoover died in 2008, leaving a body of work that ranged from abstract to pop, and exuded a dark, almost obsessive distrust of authority and the status quo. Many of Hoover's works utilized a pointillist technique of vertical dashes, so the paintings' subjects become more fully visible when viewed from a distance. There's often a limited color spectrum, creating a hazy, mysterious aura that perfectly complements Hoover's often political-themed narratives. Plant Manager (1990) is a good example of this. The gray-toned painting depicts a man wearing a hardhat with smokestacks in the background. It's apocalyptic in its smoky, ashy, acid-rain rendering of industrial excess, but the main subject wears a self-satisfied grin that emphasizes Hoover's contempt for big industry and government. At times, this exhibit can feel a bit overwrought in its politics, but that was Ron Hoover. It's skillful, passionate stuff that suits its environment. Through March 5. 140 Heights, 713-861-5526. — TS