Capsule Art Reviews: "2010 School of Art Annual Student Exhibition," "Maurizio Cattelan"

"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 gutsy 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

"Maurizio Cattelan" It's tempting to think that artist Maurizio Cattelan is putting one over on The Menil Collection. The Italian sculptor's works often tease art-world conventions and mock institutional authority. What's happened, though, in the delightful exhibition "Maurizio Cattelan," is a perfect harmony of two voices, the artist's and the institution's. Always smart in its approach to curation, the Menil has allowed Cattelan to make selections from the collection to display in juxtaposition with his own works, as well as install pieces within the museum's permanent exhibits. The result is a building-wide scavenger hunt that yields some pretty thrilling moments. And ironically, the Menil plays the trickster by figuring out an ingenious way to make patrons who only show up for the rotating exhibits check out the permanent ones again. There may not be a more perfect place for this experiment — Cattelan is a self-taught artist and was influenced greatly by surrealism. If one begins exploring the Menil at the west side of the building, Cattelan literally spells it out for us by choosing to display Joseph Kosuth's 1967 painting Titled. In white letters on a black canvas is the definition of the word "meaning." The majority of the Cattelan works on display are untitled, so introducing the definition of "meaning" seems to imply "abandon all hope of." The exhibition's major work is Cattelan's All, nine human figures lying horizontally on the floor that appear to be covered with white sheets — at least, that's what your brain tells you when you walk into the room. Closer inspection reveals a material of significantly greater substance. Another Cattelan work resides near a selection from Warhol's Electric Chair series. (You have to look for it.) And inside the surrealism galleries, find the hanging, upside-down hand with its fingers cut off (except for the middle one). Cattelan's summation of Dada, perhaps? Through August 15. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400. — TS

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