Capsule Art Reviews: "BECAUSE WE ARE," "Being: Tobiah Mundt," "Kaneem Smith," "Math of the Afterward"

"BECAUSE WE ARE" In this sprawling group show, Eric Avery and Daniel Goldstein offer testaments to the ongoing pandemic that is AIDS. Avery, an artist and psychiatrist working with AIDS patients in the Houston area, creates portraits of his patients with a stark expressionism to them. The artist carves woodcuts that he molds paper over, creating low relief cast paper works with a monumental feeling. He also uses his printmaking to inform and advocate. He turned one of The Station Museum's bathrooms into an installation, papering the walls with black-and-white prints diagramming how to use a male and a female condom. Avery's work extends to the bathroom's toilet seat, into which he sandblasted raised letters that spell "Abandon all hope ye who enter here" — in reverse. When a bare bottom sits upon the seat, the letters temporarily mark the sitter's flesh. Avery includes male and female bare-ass photos to illustrate the effect. It's like a sexual warning label. Goldstein, an HIV-positive artist who has survived friends and partners who succumbed to AIDS, collected more than 300 empty HIV medication bottles from HIV-positive people in his life, the living and the dead, and used them to construct Medicine Man 2 (2010). Hanging from the ceiling, the sculpture is a body-shaped form created by clustering and dangling the drug containers. The red-tipped syringes are aimed at and surround the figure, creating a radiant aura. It's a record of the struggle to survive disease and its side effects. Through September 19. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900. — KK

"Being: Tobiah Mundt" Tobiah Mundt creates tiny felted wool creatures that are one part cuddly stuffed animal and three parts creepy. Balls of the fuzzy white wool seem comforting until you notice the toothy mouths embedded in them. Opaque black or luminous red glass eyes peer out from chubby faces. Blobby bodies, missing or unnaturally elongated limbs and horns work to blend the cute with the ominous. It's a nice little show in Lawndale's smaller downstairs gallery, but it could stand some editing. The artist displays so many of her little creatures that the gallery feels like a store. Mundt, an architect by training, refers to herself as a "self-taught" artist in her bio and seems to come out of a craft sensibility. But her work has tremendous "contemporary art" potential. Mundt's figures would be perfect inhabitants for an installation environment. By focusing less on making a collection of objects and focusing more on what she wants to say with them, Mundt could turn out some even more amazing work. Through September 25. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — KK

"Kaneem Smith" Kaneem Smith's installation of brown wax bones looks like the spoils of archaeological grave robbing. In Smith's solo show at TSU's University Museum, the cast bones are hung in a line on the wall, as if a researcher is categorizing and labeling them. And in a project located behind the old Jeff Davis hospital, Smith has done a public art piece that relates to this work. She filled grave-like metal ellipses with gravel and placed them over the unmarked African American burial ground behind the building. Although development has encroached into the area, the graves were never relocated. Will some archaeological team of the future excavate, clean, codify and display those remains of mothers, fathers, sons and daughters? Issues of memory, loss and a fascination with the body permeate Smith's work. Her University Museum exhibition is filled with materials like raw cotton, rope and handwoven fabrics, sometimes coated with plastic or rubber to create visceral and highly evocative objects. Through September 26. Texas Southern University, University Museum, Fairchild Building (south wing), 713-313-7011. — KK

"Math of the Afterward" Lawndale Art Center and Austin's Boozefox artist collective are a match made in heaven. Working 12-hour days for a week straight, collective members Mike Phalan, Jules Buck Jones, Scott Eastwood and Drew Liverman — and Lawndale staff and volunteers — constructed the biggest, most wonderfully ridiculous object the main gallery has ever hosted. (And with Lawndale, that really says something.) Math of the Afterward is a giant cardboard head, supposedly a Pre-Khormusan monument" salvaged from the "Chicxulub Crater" in the Gulf of Mexico. The head almost fills the entire 2,400-square-foot, 16-foot-high gallery. You enter it through a ramp leading into its mouth (Day-Glo orange letters warn you to "Enter at your own risk.") Two TVs screen psychedelic footage, creating the head's roiling eyes. Inside, among other things, the structure has an observation deck, walkways, a giant turning screw, fog machines and seating areas. This kind of epic, go-for-broke, patently unsaleable, riotous group effort was the hallmark of Early Lawndale. It's great to see it continuing at 21st-century Lawndale. Through September 25. 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — KK

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