Capsule Art Reviews: "A Room of Her Own", "Howard Sherman: When gorillas shoot pigs", "Tierney Malone: Third Ward Is My Harlem"

"A Room of Her Own" Group shows of women artists are exceptionally patronizing when the only connection between the works presented is that they were all made by someone with a vagina. That's the organizing principle behind "A Room of Her Own" at McClain Gallery. The title is pretty awful as well, but thankfully the work isn't. This may be a catchall show, but there are some things definitely worth seeing. Alice Neel is always wonderful, and David, her 1968 portrait of a small, wiry boy in a big green armchair, is no exception. Judy Pfaff's Turkey Hill (2009) showcases the artist's characteristically exuberant use of diverse materials — it's like a Pfaff installation within a shadow box. But it was Tara Donovan's sculpture that blew me away. Some of you may remember Donovan's 2004 installation at Rice Gallery, "Haze," in which she created an ethereal, cloudlike wall from an unlikely material — clear soda straws. Here she's created an even more amazing optical effect with buttons. Donovan painstakingly stacked and glued clear buttons into irregular, mountain-like peaks and valleys. It's a striking sculpture, but what happens optically is phenomenal. There is a soft, fuzzy, flickering blur over the entire thing — even close up. I have no idea what causes it, maybe all the misaligned buttonholes, but you have to see it. Through January 2. 2242 Richmond, 713-520-9988. — KK

"Howard Sherman: When gorillas shoot pigs" Howard Sherman returns to McMurtrey Gallery with another set of explosive canvases, and this time he's taking on the economy! (Sort of.) Sherman's previous show at McMurtrey seemed preoccupied with the sex industry and the urban underbelly, but this time his subjects feel more abstract and nefarious. Of course, all we have to go on really are Sherman's always-titillating titles, like Trust me my instruments are sterile and Pussy fever, but this time he's also included ones like Revision as a form of lying and Everyone else is temporary, a sign that Sherman is clearly embracing, more than before, his work's abstract nature and trusting the power of his imagery. Familiar motifs like little syringes are back, but tiny debit MasterCards also pepper these paintings, especially in works like Social capital means nothing here and The banker. Sherman's use of spray paint and splatter reinforce an urban environment, and he's playing around with trompe l'oeil, too, transforming acrylic paint into paper and masking tape — watch for the places where Sherman "tags" his own paintings. Sherman's love of bright fluorescence seems restrained here, though. Death of the linear narrative, for example, feels uncharacteristically drained of color. A thick, black, vertical zigzag dominates the canvas, surrounded by bleached-out pastels and an "x-ed out" shape with teeth-like stalactites. It's the most confident piece in a set of confidently enigmatic and playful works — perhaps symbolic of Sherman's new direction and steady rise. Through November 28. 3508 Lake, 713-523-8238. — TS

"Tierney Malone: Third Ward Is My Harlem" When you enter DiverseWorks' main gallery and look to the left, a mural spans the entire wall. One of the first words you read is "Tierney," but before you assume it's a reference to Tierney Malone, the artist who directed the creation of the mural and whose paintings wrap around the gallery, you do a double-take. It's a reference to Gene Tierney the actress, since the huge panel is a kind of zoomed-in look at the movie poster for Laura, Otto Preminger's atmospheric 1944 film noir. Malone is a lover of movies and music, and his work echoes the flickery, fleeting feeling that both of those mediums convey. But Malone is less concerned with imagery; he's fascinated by text. "Third Ward Is My Harlem" is Malone's homage to the "catz" who inspired him during the late '80s and '90s when he immersed himself in the Third Ward artist community, as well as the music and art he discovered during that time. His collage paintings utilize text from record album covers, corn bread boxes and just about anything that piques his interest, generating nonlinear narratives that exude a mysterious, ghostly and dead-sexy vibe — like the aforementioned actress. Be sure and check out the amazingly outfitted little theater in the gallery. It screens a short movie that reinforces the work on display and even amplifies that jazzy, flickery quality Malone's paintings naturally embody. Through December 19. 1117 East Fwy., 713-223-8346. — TS


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