Capsule Art Reviews: "Anthony Thompson Shumate: Novus Ordo Seclorum," "The Art Guys: New Clichés," "Measuring Your Own Grave," Round 30: Home. Space. Place.
"Anthony Thompson Shumate: Novus Ordo Seclorum" Novus ordo seclorum ("New Order of the Ages") is one of those bits of Latin written on your dollar bill, as well as the title of Anthony Thompson Shumate's exhibition at Barbara Davis Gallery. The show is based on a little-known conspiracy theory — that of the Amero. The Amero is a single North American currency for America, Canada and Mexico, modeled on the Euro, that has allegedly been secretly in the works for years. Shumate has taken this idea and run with it, expertly designing the new currency and coinage. He's even had his own coins minted. Bring a buck to the gallery and slide it into Shumate's change machine for your very own Amero. And, hey, if the rumors (discredited on snopes.com) turn out to be true, you're ahead of the game. Through June 27. 4411 Montrose, 713-520-9200. — KK
"The Art Guys: New Clichés" With "New Clichés," The Art Guys present recent work still rooted in the familiar blend of bizarre humor and smart, confident swagger we've long associated with the names Jack Massing and Michael Galbreth. They are avid, eager experimentalists in process and materials. It's as intriguing to behold one of the duo's failures as it is to celebrate a success, since Massing and Galbreth don't seem to manifest an interest in either one. An idea's conception, once outlined or proposed in image or sculpture, is already an accomplishment. Here, the work with the greatest impact results from augmenting simple objects (mostly tools) with components and materials that alter the objects' utilitarian contexts. Duet, for example, is an old metal oilcan with a strange moaning sound emanating from inside it. Get closer and peer into the two long spouts. You'll see two little mouths singing. For Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Party World), the Guys covered a shovel, a rake and a weed cutter with little mirror squares and hung them from the ceiling on motors so they imitate mirror balls. The reflections create mesmerizing patterns on the walls. Who wouldn't want that? The experience begins hilariously and winds up strangely beautiful. Same with their series of match drawings — images created by burned wooden matches mounted on aluminum panels. Each one delivers a specific response based on an image juxtaposed with the burning process — a clown, a skull, a lamp, a honey bear. It's the grownup equivalent of two kids burning shit behind the garage to see what happens. What happens is something really rad. Through June 20. McClain Gallery, 2242 Richmond, 713-520-9988. — TS
Measuring Your Own Grave" I always thought Osama Bin Laden had strangely kind eyes. At least that's how he looks in photographs, and that's how he looks in The Pilgrim (2006), a portrait by Marlene Dumas. Dumas has painted an "evil-doer," not sympathetically but just as she paints everyone else, without judgment and with an eye for the strangeness inherent in all humans. In Dumas's world, an image of a squiggling, awkward newborn feels as unsettling as an image of a fanatic. The Bin Laden portrait is part of Dumas's mid-career retrospective at The Menil Collection, "Measuring Your Own Grave." Virtually all of Dumas's images are painted from photographs, most all of them shot by someone else. She collects them from a variety of sources — porn, newspapers, old class photos, fashion magazines; she has hundreds of them stored in binders. Sampling the human condition like some sociological researcher from another planet, she looks at people objectively, without sentiment, without preconception. Her paintings, particularly the later ones, are loosely done. With thin layers and washes of paint on canvas and watercolor on paper, every painting feels like a risk, a one-shot deal that could go terribly wrong. But her work never seems facilely executed, even when it has the simplest imagery. Through June 21. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400. — KK
Round 30: Home. Space. Place. The latest installations at Project Row Houses focus on the idea of home and its significance to cultural identity. Some explore the Third Ward neighborhood literally, such as Gregory Michael Carter's Walk with me..., which contains a glassed-in convenience store window outfitted with an old cash register, tobacco advertisements and a tongue-in-cheek Xerox sheet of famous African-American mugshots. The window is juxtaposed against a turbulent room of maze-like patterns on the walls, English fox-hunt wallpaper and various ephemera. Lance Flowers uses his Project Row Houses turn to display his urban-iconography-inspired artwork and supplements the installation with a coat of bright orange paint, photographs and a foreboding pile of junk TVs littered with unopened bottles of cheap "champagne" — an ironic comment on the class status of urban art. Other standouts include Lisa Qualls's Spirit Level, an elegant work that divides the room with clotheslines. From them hang white garments printed with portraits of their assumed wearers. And Rashida Ferdinand's Lullaby breaks the Greenwood King house into separate spaces of color, image, text and texture that convey memories of the artist's grandmothers. Ferdinand inexplicably leaves one space blank. Perhaps it's to imply the emptiness of loss or the solace of knowing one's way home. Through June 21. 2521 Holman, 713-526-7662. — TS
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