Capsule Art Reviews: "Asis/Esmeraldo/Espinosa/Lizarraga," "Hayden Fosdick: Paper Compounds," "Helen Altman: Half-Life," "Insperity Golf Experience," Marc Swanson: The Second Story, "Raimund Girke 1930-2002," "Working in the Abstract"
"Asis/Esmeraldo/Espinosa/Lizárraga" Work by 79-year-old Argentine artist Antonio Asis is a standout in Sicardi Gallery's thoughtful works-on-paper show. The gallery is showing Asis's geometric work from the 1960s — small, page-size acrylic works on paper. Carefully rendered on graph paper, Asis's designs reveal their handmade origins in minute and endearing ways. Gorgeous little bands of color radiate against each other in one work, while in another tiny, pixel-like grids of squares in warm and cool colors look like early computer-generated imagery. A series of small, black-and-white graph-paper paintings explore positive and negative space using circles, semicircles and squares. Their patterns are beautifully precise, but if you scrutinize them carefully enough, you are rewarded with evidence of the artist's brush straying just a little too far here and there. In an age of masking-taped edges and slick digital geometries, there is something warm and wonderful about seeing the human hand strive for perfection and fail. Through October 8. 2246 Richmond, 713-529-1313. — KK
"Hayden Fosdick: Paper Compounds" Hayden Fosdick's small, minimalist collage works feel right at home on the walls of downtown urban boutique The Tipping Point. The little cut-and-paste jobs, utilizing imagery and paper from a collection of old books the artist inherited from his late father, look like tiny wheat-paste street-art works. Most contain only two or three image components, combined to create a simple yet visually compelling hybrid. Fosdick slips up occasionally, but only because he tries, perhaps, to keep it simple, and some of his juxtapositions lack an organic connection. In other words, some pieces feel unfinished. But there's much to enjoy in this show, like an ear inserted into an incomplete female face, where the earlobe is transformed into the end of a stuck-out tongue; and one in which the upper torso of a woman doing a workout routine springs from the funnel of a tornado. Another plus: The price is right. Most of these pieces can be bought for $150-$200, just a shade more expensive than that cool pair of PUMA high-tops on the shelf. Through October 15. 1212 Main, 713-655-0443. — TS
"Helen Altman: Half-Life" It's like she's psychic. The nature and fire imagery in Helen Altman's show, done way before the rash of Texas wildfires, was nothing if not prescient. Of course, it's not like it came out of nowhere — Altman has an abiding interest in the natural world, and she's done drawings with blowtorches before, as well as building sculptures from glowing fake fireplace logs. I've never been that big on Altman's 2D work, but when she starts bringing in the 3D elements, things get interesting. In the back gallery at Moody, Line of Fire (2011), Altman's wall painting of a beaver dam, has a stand of stripped-down trees in its background. Flickering, flame-like Christmas lights are attached to the wall and clustered over the painted trunks, seemingly setting them alight. Meanwhile, Two Deer Reflecting (2011) is a gorgeously black-humored work, a vintage lamp with a colorfully hokey forest scene on its shade. It's one of those cylindrical lamps with a rotating insert, which Altman altered by cutting out tiny flame shapes. As the inner cylinder rotates against the light, fire seems to rage through the tranquil forest. Vinyl letters on the wall behind it read: Gordon said to Enid, "Living well is the best revenge."Enid looked up and replied, "Burning down their cabin is a close second." Through October 15. Moody Gallery, 2815 Colquitt St., 713-526-9911. — KK
"Insperity Golf Experience" Putt-putt golf isn't the leisure activity it used to be. What killed it? We have no idea, but if upscale makeovers are bringing people back to the bowling lanes, we think contemporary art might do the same for putt-putt. The nine-hole Insperity Golf Experience explores what happens when you ask artists to design putt-putt holes. You get your standard, avoid-the-obstacles holes like Emily Sloan's Sloan Winding Landscape, a yellow-turf area split by a little winding fence, as well as trick-shot challenges like Elaine Bradford's Hole in the Sidereal, complete with a replica of the artist's signature sweater-clothed deer. We wanted to play Anthony Thompson Shumate's Galactic Forfeit Cowboy Lounge, which launches the golf ball through a custom-made pinball machine, but it was temporarily out of service. And the Art Guys naturally contribute a hole you can't even play; it's meant only as sculpture. (Score yourself a hole-in-one and enjoy.) Through November 27. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney, 713-400-7336. — TS
Marc Swanson: The Second Story This exhibit's title, "The Second Story," suggests that there was indeed a first story, a previous narrative — that this show is in effect a sequel. Or it references a San Francisco gay bar by the same name. Both are true. Viewers familiar with the artist Marc Swanson who are clued in to his gay-culture (specifically ball culture) references, may walk away from the show smugly satisfied, feeling as if they'd received a secret message. But the work is also enjoyable as a series of contemporary memorials: the "second story" of a life. Immediately visible upon entrance is a turtle shell encrusted with rhinestones (Swanson is known for his taxidermied deer heads covered in crystals), a reference to a character in the 19th-century novel Against Nature, who sets gemstones in his pet tortoise's shell, and the extra weight kills the animal. Other works are arrangements of items, chains, fabric and photos, boxed and hung like shrines. One piece is a kind of stacked totem displaying a man's portrait; it includes a little shelf where you might place a candle. Overall the show comes off as a highly personal set of works, and viewers' personal histories will determine the degree to which its symbolic content connects. But even without a reference library, the show emits a strong emotional charge. Through October 9, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250. — TS
"Raimund Girke 1930-2002" Raimund Girke made deceptively simple paintings — the kind of art that people think their kids could do. With determined gesture and controlled expression, the late German artist dragged long, brushy strokes across his canvases. It's pretty masterful work; the marks are forceful and unwavering, the paintings dominated by strokes of white over dark grounds. Paintings like this can succeed or fail in ways that are incredibly difficult to categorize, as illustrated by the show itself, which features a couple near-misses shown with some standout works. Die Kraft der Vertikalen (1997) has an amazing presence and is the centerpiece of the show. It's a great rush of frosty white strokes over and intermingled with dark blue-black ones. Don't try this at home. Through October 29. Gallery Sonja Roesch, 2309 Caroline, 713-659-5424. — KK
"Working in the Abstract: Rethinking the Literal" This show acts as a kind of teaching tool, so it's appropriate that it's on display at the Glassell School of Art. It's a primer on different styles of abstract painting, and it features some local heavy hitters of abstraction. The styles range from the liquid and organic compositions of Michael Kennaugh and Terrell James to the structured and geometrically inspired works of Pat Colville and Susie Rosmarin. The show's good for cleansing your mood palate; it's a way to exorcise those analytical demons and distill your surroundings down to color, shape and pattern. Rosmarin's meditative grids are consistently sweet eye candy, illuminated and flickering in an op-art-ish way. And Brooke Masterson Stroud's mysterious black paintings mix hard lines with hazy, unknowable open space. The exhibit succeeds in displaying the potential for emotion in abstraction. Through November 28. The Glassell School of Art, 5101 Montrose, 713-639-7300. — TS
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