Capsule Art Reviews: "35 Years: Anniversary Exhibition," "Dante Marioni: Recent Glass Works," "Libby Black: If Nothing Else Matters," "Richard Misrach: After Katrina," "St. Boniface's Last Days"
"35 Years: Anniversary Exhibition" Moody Gallery is 35! Packed with gallery artists, the anniversary show is like a big, riotous family reunion where all the crazy cousins showed up and brought art instead of a covered dish. Among the offerings, Michael Bise has a naked portrait of himself hooked up to an IV, Al Souza has one of those massive puzzle "paintings" and Mary McCleary presents one of her obsessive collages. Terry Allen's sculpture includes a neon-wrapped taxidermied coyote. Bill Steffy's contribution is a weighty little silver skull — a Mayan-fueled Damian Hirst smackdown. Betty Moody is one of those rare gallery owners who inspire a fanatically loyal following amongst both collectors and artists. Somebody ought to give her a medal. Through October 16. 2815 Colquitt, 713-526-9911. — KK
"Dante Marioni: Recent Glass Works" This show offers up some pretty great glass vessels. Unlike glass celebrity Dale Chihuly — who makes interesting sculpture if your point of departure is a salad bowl, but really mediocre work in the context of contemporary sculpture — Dante Marioni focuses on making gorgeous vessels that don't try to pretend to be something they aren't. His black, red-trimmed vases have an ancient Greece vibe to them and are as slender as stilettos. The same strong colors appear in Marioni's Red in Black Vessel Display (2007). A three-shelf black display box is filled with ruby-red vases sporting curving handles, arcing arms and ball-like appendages. It's a visually stunning piece, and the vessels read like a cast of animated characters. Through October 22. Wade Wilson Art, 4411 Montrose, 713-521-2977. — KK
"Libby Black: If Nothing Else Matters" Peel Gallery features this quirky exhibit, curated by Lea Weingarten, formerly Lea Fastow, filled with drawings and paintings lovingly rendered from fashion magazines, as well as brightly colored, slightly wonky painted-paper sculptures seeking to replicate or invent status-symbol luxury products. Prada trunk or Goyard roller skates, anyone? Black's art is a love letter to fashion and expensive status objects cut with a slyly ironic take on conspicuous consumption. In past works, she has re-created entire Kate Spade and Louis Vuitton stores. The pieces are ambiguous enough that wealthy consumers of the actual brands can find them appealing in a straightforward way. "Oh, how clever, a Louis Vuitton trunk just like mine, but it's made of paaaaper!" One wonders if Weingarten sees the show as a symbolic new leaf, or if she is she drawn to it because of the products and world it represents. Is it all intentionally ironic or business as usual? Through October 16. Peel Gallery, 4411 Montrose, 713-520-8122. — KK
"Richard Misrach: After Katrina" The five-year anniversary of Katrina briefly brought the catastrophe and its victims back onto the front page. The MFAH's exhibition of Richard Misrach photographs was timed to the anniversary, but the unpopulated images capture and convey the Katrina tragedy in the words of its survivors and will continue to speak long after media attention has again faded. Armed with a dinky four-megapixel camera, Misrach photographed the official and unofficial graffiti spray-painted over New Orleans's devastated homes in Katrina's aftermath — the search and rescue notations, personal messages, expletives, quips and exclamations of its residents and evacuees. What emerges is a portrait of people overwhelmed by tragedy and sometimes managing to fight back with dark humor. The poster image for the series is a shot of a red brick ranch-style house with the words "Destroy this memory" scrawled across it. Rescuers' orange spray-paint code for checked houses and notations of dead bodies and dead animals are ubiquitous. Despair is written bluntly across roofs, "HELP." Others declare, "I AM ALIVE" and add a cell phone number. Humor, the ultimate coping mechanism, is in full view. "YEP, BROWNIE, YOU DID A HECK OF A JOB" is caustically printed on the side of a garage. The worst are the questions. "MICHAEL, WHERE ARE YOU?" is written on a house above a contact number. Misrach's series is especially compelling because he gives Katrina's victims a voice, one that is as complex as they are, and one that will continue to resonate. Through October 31. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300. — KK
"St. Boniface's Last Days" Nature is beautiful, romantic and tranquil – that is, until you are in the middle of it. In Peat Duggins's show Art Palace Gallery, images of nature have some ominous aspects. A series of marquetry plaques feature scenes crafted from various shades and varieties of inlaid wood veneer. Pretty butterflies float as a coiled snake swallows a frog, its legs kicking frantically even as its tongue shoots out to snag a butterfly and take it down with them. In the same way that Duggins's imagery subverts marquetry's decorative origins, his choice of materials subverts the reddish-brown "wooden" frames surrounding the plaques. The plaque's ornate, leaf-adorned frames are actually cast fiberglass. The same material used to fabricate hot tubs frames the wooden images of nature. That's pretty funny. In the center of the gallery is a long, hooded cloak that looks like the vestments for some sort of druid priest. The garment is gorgeously crafted from hundreds of pieces of felt cut into the shapes of leaves, with a train long enough to satisfy the bridal ambitions of a Dallas debutant. Several "wooden" busts are situated around the room, cast in the same oddly chocolaty-brown fiberglass as the frames for the marquetry pieces. Duggins uses his felt leaves here as well, hooding the busts with them. But rather than draping over the heads of the busts, they cling to them; ominous and suffocating rather than ceremonial, they appear to drip over the heads. I picture the faces underneath gasping for air. Through October 23. 3913 Main, 281-501-2964. — KK
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