Capsule Art Reviews: "Apertura-Colombia," "Craft in America — Expanding Traditions," "Dario Robleto: Oh, Those Mirrors With Memory (Actions 1996-1997)," "How Artists Draw," "Katy Heinlein," "Miwa Yanagi — Deutsche Bank Collection"
"Apertura-Colombia" This survey of Colombian photography and video at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art far outshined the official FotoFest exhibitions of contemporary Chinese photography. The Station is at its best when it deals with art and politics, and this show is no exception. Angel Rojas shows Caquetá, his video of a young man with no hands trying to wash the camouflage paint from his face, and Mirando la Flor, two photos taken ten years apart of a man with a drug addiction, with a soundless video of the man talking about his life. Jesús Abad Colorado's work includes images of refugees, bombed-out towns, indigenous people blocking the Pan American Highway in protest and people carrying a banner that reads "Territorio de Paz" through a ruined village. Juan Manuel Echavarría creates sculptures from mangled, broken and charred mannequin parts, then photographs them and digitally inserts them into images of government plazas or luxury high-rise apartment buildings. Andres Sierra presents the photographic series Karma Sutra, shocking but oddly poignant portraits of amputees having sex. And Libia Posada's series RE-TRATOS (Portraits) presents gold-framed portraits of abused women with cuts and bruises forensically reconstructed on their faces. The artists of "Apertura" are taking their country — and ours — to task. Through May 18. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900. — KK
"Craft in America — Expanding Traditions" With a lush catalog introduced by Jimmy Carter, an extensive Web site and an accompanying three-part PBS series, "Craft in America — Expanding Traditions" has "blockbuster" written all over it. Organized by Craft in America, Inc., the exhibition seeks to explore the "many cultures and movements that have contributed to the development and refinement of American craft during the last two centuries." It's a pretty sweeping agenda that may be better addressed in the video series than the exhibition, which, in spite of some compelling objects, feels kinda piecemeal. But that said, it's definitely worth a trip to check out everything from a shaker-influenced George Nakashima bench, to a stunning Native American beaded vest, to quirky face jugs. Through May 4. Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — KK
"Dario Robleto: Oh, Those Mirrors With Memory (Actions 1996-1997)" San Antonio-based Robleto is known primarily for his intricate sculptures, which take the forms of relics and convey narratives of war, but Inman Gallery is presenting a series of early text-based works that challenge the definition of art space. The main room contains one actual object — there's a fixture in the center displaying a small iron pyrite spool threaded with what is described as "Patsy Cline's 'I Fall to Pieces' 45-rpm vinyl record slowly sliced along outer rim until reaching center." On the walls are 14 little groupings of vinyl text, each describing a type of performance art "action" that Robleto conceived a little over a decade ago. An example is "Be Mad, Be Rash, Smoke and Explode, Resist or Move On," in which Robleto claims he drove around in his car blaring the Sex Pistols' "Never Mind the Bollocks" on an animals-only frequency in an attempt to incite revolution among the local beasts. Much of the words bear a poetic kindness that verges on the silly. It's obvious Robleto didn't actually perform these, like the one in which he postpones the end of the world by simply whiting out every reference to it, but the show inflicts a warm charm you might not expect from its stark appearance. Through May 24. 3901 Main, 713-526-7803. — TS
"How Artists Draw" The process of drawing is the focus of The Menil Collection's outstanding new exhibition. Beautifully curated from the Menil's drawing collection by Bernice Rose, it includes a hit parade of modern artists but makes you look at their work in an entirely new way. Post-impressionist, cubist, abstract expressionist or minimalist, they all draw. It's like looking at work from a drawing class filled with radically different students. The works were selected from the Menil's 1,500-piece collection of modernist drawings and works on paper. The timeline of the exhibition starts with Georges Seurat's 1883 Coin d'Usine (Corner of a Factory), a nest of marks and scribbles that construct a dark image of the blunt, windowless corner of a building and a tangle of shrubbery. It's a really wonderful little drawing. Other works in the show are delicately obsessive. Vincent van Gogh's Arden with Weeping Trees, Arles (August 1888) is a notebook-size piece of paper covered with tiny ink marks. You see van Gogh hunched over this dinky piece of paper, creating an entire world within its confines. Using short, sharp marks, along with curves, swirls and dots of ink, he renders a wonderful little swatch of landscape with shrubs and a weeping willow. You see a very different personality and very different approach in Pablo Picasso's Sketch of André Salmon (1907). In this barebones charcoal line drawing, Salmon looks kind of chimp-like. Picasso works to break the head and torso down into exaggerated but simplified lines. There's also drawings by Fernand Léger, Willem de Kooning, Ellsworth Kelly – and on and on through art history. Through May 18. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400. — KK
"Katy Heinlein" Katy Heinlein's floor-and-wall-based sculptures tread a somewhat interesting line between room dressing and art. Mostly wire-and-wood forms draped in stretchy, bright-colored synthetic fabric, the pieces instantly beg the question, "What am I looking at?" Since the draped forms don't really resemble anything or bear a recognizable shape, the next question you might ask yourself is, "What does it look like?" Ultimately, though, tents and maybe mountains are as far as you'd get with that one. As abstract art, the works feel more like underdeveloped conceits rather than finished pieces. As conceptual interior design, it lacks direction. Heinlein is probably onto something here, but the concept needs more trickery and a better-developed, fleshier sense of mystery to really provoke a question like, "How did she do that?" Through May 24. CTRL Gallery, 3907 Main, 713-523-2875. — TS
"Miwa Yanagi — Deutsche Bank Collection" Miwa Yanagi's stunning photographs depict women in edgy ways. One series of images, Elevator Girls, takes on a Japanese department store icon. Costuming look-alike models as "elevator girls" in matching suits, hats and gloves, Yanagi groups them in sleek but coldly desolate mall environments. She digitally tweaks the photographs to up the surreal element, printing them in large scale and lush color. For her My Grandmothers series, Yanagi had young women imagine their lives 50 years in the future and then used makeup, costuming and sets to realize their individual visions. The resulting personas range from a septuagenarian amusement park magnate in a pink bear costume to an elderly dominatrix. The artist turns to black-and-white photography for Fairy Tale, her most disturbing series, in which two young girls, one wearing the mask of an old hag, enact the darker scenes from dark fairy tales. Yanagi's visions are highly individual and unsettling. Through May 4. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300. — KK
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