Capsule Art Reviews: "AES+F," "Agustina Nuñez: Little Polymorphous," "Flicker Fusion," "The Thames Mudlarks"

"AES+F" AES+F is a Russian art powerhouse comprised of Tatiana Arzamasova, a conceptual architect; Lev Evzovitch, a conceptual architect and filmmaker; Evgeny Svyatsky, a graphic artist; and Vladimir Fridkes, a fashion photographer for the likes of Vogue. The group combine their diverse skills to spectacular effect: Their work is slick, smart and infused with a sense of the macabre. Three phenomenal installations by the collaborative are on view at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art in "AES+F," curated by Olga Sviblova. The installation Suspects: Seven Sinners and Seven Righteous (1997) contains large photographs of 14 teenage girls. Seven of them are convicted murderers, and seven are ordinary Moscow high school students. AES+F doesn't tell you who's who. The portraits are all taken the same way; they're head-on, mug shot-like images against a white background. Ultimately, anybody could be anything, the series seems to say. The photographic series Defile (2000-2007) presents seven life-size images of people clad in avant-garde fashions. You might think it's just Fridkes exercising his fashion-photography skills — until you notice the models' sunken eyes, crudely stitched autopsy scars and rigor mortis. AES+F shot pictures of unidentified corpses at the morgue and then digitally clad them in edgy fashion. It's a provocative strategy, and showing big pictures of dead people has a creepy allure. Last Riot (2007) is the centerpiece of the exhibition. This apocalyptic three-screen video presents a surreal, digitally animated panorama of the end of the world. It's a tour de force, a dark and intensely contemporary vision. Through February 29. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900. — KK

"Agustina Nuñez: Little Polymorphous" A quick once-around of this mural by Argentine artist Agustina Nuñez won't unlock its mysteries. A brief glimpse only reveals the apparent: scenes of playing children scattered among misshapen human appendages and animals. Sometimes the body parts and creatures coalesce, as in a twisted, hairy hand sprouting a dog's head off the forearm. There's a large child's head sporting a kind of grotesque mustache, an old baby carriage with a tree growing out of it, and a freakish, floating man/boy wearing oversize boxing gloves. Using acrylic on white walls, Nuñez creates figures that look like uncolored pictures in a coloring book, while some look as if they were made with a stencil. From a certain distance, the acrylic almost resembles colored vinyl, an effect that Nuñez purposely attempted. Eventually, a theme of childhood innocence lost begins to emerge. The animals, mostly dogs, take on a predatory nature. A cartoon elephant hovers over a seesaw ridden by six children, and with this touch, the "elephant in the room" materializes; danger looms large over fleeting youth. Through February 23. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Fwy., 713-223-4608. — TS

"Flicker Fusion" Fans of independent film and animation should hurry to DiverseWorks to experience this treat of an exhibition. The name "Flicker Fusion" refers to the visual fusion produced by a continuous flow of video frames; the show loops through a 12-video cycle presented at seven viewing stations. As one enters, the cacophonous sound produced by the simultaneous screenings is a little daunting, but later, the churning noise adds an interesting layer to the show as a whole. Among the works on view are Houston artist Wendy Wagner's The Eternity of a Second, an ethereal narrative involving characters from her paintings, rendered in computer flash animation; Brent Green's Hadacol Christmas, which imagines the origin of Christmas as a cough syrup-induced rampage by a bony, withered Santa; Federico Solmi's King Kong, a crude yet outrageous drawing animation that takes the iconic movie monster and transforms him into a lumbering pop-culture critic; Lars Arrhenius's The Street, an amusing microcosm of monotony featuring a night-and-day cross-section of urban life populated by pictograph people (like the ones on public information signs); and Martha Colburn's Meet Me in Wichita, a stop-motion work that melds photography, painting and mixed media into a muscular, transfixing mixture of movie mythology and American foreign policy. Hands down the most entertaining video is Ich Bin Ein Manipulator by Wright & Rojas. Fashion and advertising get skewered and manipulated in this elaborate excuse to destroy magazines. "Flicker Fusion" is a fantastic buffet of powerful and curious animation. Through February 23. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Fwy., 713-223-8346. — TS



"The Thames Mudlarks" The term "mudlark," coined during the Industrial Revolution, referred to a young street urchin or elderly woman who scoured the banks of London's Thames River for lumps of coal, discarded rubbish, household items and toys. Translating the icky exercise into artistic metaphor, CTRL Gallery is currently hosting a delightful exhibition of seven London artists whose work employs a certain amount of foraging for materials, or which plays on a theme of abandoned or strewn detritus transformed into something wholly different. Of the 23 works on display, all but two were completed last year, adding immediacy and a trendiness to the exhibit. This is the debris of now. The show includes Jost Münster's acrylic paintings on paper and wood, which look like a close-up, pixilated view of mud, maybe; Adam Humphries's large-scale digital prints depicting a section of land, really the paper's white surface, peppered with boulders, rocks, dead trees and twigs, bits of litter and splatterings; and Piers Secunda's wall-mounted sculptures, which employ and mimic found objects and are constructed almost entirely from brightly colored, heavy-duty industrial paint. Most representative of an actual mudlark is Shane Bradford, whose captivating works meld painting, sculpture and mixed media. According to history, mudlarking rarely produced rewards for those willing to wade through filth. Here, though, most everyone hits paydirt. Through February 23. 3907 Main,713-523-2875. — TS

Capsule reviews by Kelly Klaasmeyer and Troy Schulze

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