Capsule Art Reviews: "Blind Lines," "Frank Zeni," "Remixed & Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970," "We the People..."
"Blind Lines" In the 19th century, locks of hair from the living and the dead were considered sentimental mementos. In the 21st century, collected strands of hair are more often than not associated with DNA analysis for a crime lab or paternity test. Mexican artist Gabriel de la Mora uses hair in his art, blending past and present associations with the material. His work is on view in "Blind Lines" at Sicardi Gallery. De la Mora has an extensive collection of hair gathered from friends, acquaintances and relatives. In his current exhibition at Sicardi, the work is abstract but intended as portraits of individuals. Each piece uses hair from a single person. For two works, the woman's gray hair has been carefully knotted into ethereal, cloud-like forms. One rests on a dark background, while another rests on a white background. The two are presented on a pedestal in acrylic boxes, like reliquaries. Armando Ignacio Silva Vicencio II (2008) presents enlarged hair drawings of the subject's fingerprints. His hair has been painstakingly glued to the paper, delineating the ridges and whorls of his prints, another individual marker of identity. De la Mora is creating inventive andprovocative works from unlikely materials. And, FYI, this hair-obsessed artist is bald. Through January 10. 2246 Richmond, 713-529-1313. — KK
"Frank Zeni" New bar/gallery Khon's celebrates its grand opening on Milam with an exhibit of paintings by local artist/architect Frank Zeni. Known mostly for his Roman temple-themed folk-art house "Tempietto Zeni," Frank's paintings reflect a fascination with masters like Caravaggio, Chagall and Toulouse-Lautrec. This particular series utilizes liberal doses of bright reds, yellows and greens, depicting surreal rural farm-like panoramas populated by monstrous roosters, as well as urban representations of a neighborhood parade or perhaps a block party. Possessors of the XY chromosome should sneak a peek or, better, ask to see the painting installed in the ladies' room. The fluorescent lighting provides an interesting contrast to the main show's color palette, and it underscores the painting's cartoonish content. It's accessible and relatively affordable work, and Khon's is a relaxing, unpretentious environment. Through December 31. 2808 Milam, 713-523-7775. — TS
"Remixed & Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970" With almost 50 video works on view, this show is definitely worth the trip, even if you can only hit the highlights. Co-organized by CAMH curator Valerie Cassel Oliver and Dr. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta, the exhibition spans generations. In Cornered, Adrian Piper's iconic 1988 video installation about race, Piper, a woman with dark hair and an olive complexion, speaks to you on a video monitor, saying "I'm black." Like the philosophy professor that she is, Piper patiently dissects the meaning of that statement in a brilliant and illuminating exercise in logic that demonstrates the inescapability of race in America. Big Gurl (2006) is a Barbie-filled stop-motion animation tour de force work by the young Houston artist Lauren Kelley. Kelley uses goofy stop-motion animation and a host of modified Barbiesque dolls to tell stories about women's lives that blend humor with poignancy. Lip, Tracy Moffat's 1999 video, features clips scavenged from film history of black women portraying maids in film. History of a People Who Were Not Heroes (1994), María Magdalena Campos-Pons's video, plays a haunting Cuban lullaby while a sheet-draped rocking chair moves back and forth. Cut, a video by Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry, shows the artists, a couple, cutting each other's hair with a straight razor. McCallum is white and Tarry is black, and the seemingly straightforward mutual act evokes power, submission, loss and sensuality. Video is a powerful medium, yet it's a medium that requires a level of commitment from the viewer. But expand your attention span, and your patience will be rewarded. Through January 4. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose Blvd., 713-284-8250. — KK
"We the People..." Soody Sharifi's work is the standout of this exhibition of works that explore various aspects of the immigrant experience. Here, Sharifi, known for her digital photographs updating traditional Persian painting, is pushing her work in a less aestheticized, more in-your-face direction. She has dotted two walls with photographs of young American Muslims in various situations, straddling two worlds as they play basketball and hang out with friends. The women in her photographs wear stylish sunglasses with their hijab. The walls the photographs hang on are plastered with the kinds of one-liners you see on T-shirts or bumper stickers, but they're all from a Muslim perspective. Mining various sources, including Facebook, Sharifi dug up lines like, "Yes, I'm an American. How did you guess?" There's also "Is your dad a terrorist? Because you are the bomb" and "What do Islam and Capitalism have in common? A fundamental belief in profits." Another reads, "Is it me or is it getting a little Halal in here?" It's the kind of thing a Muslim Shecky Greene might utter. Putting a snarky spin on stereotypes, Sharifi introduces the modernity and humor often lacking in depictions of Muslims in pop culture. Through December 27. The Art League Houston, 1952 Montrose Blvd., 713-523-9530. — KK
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