Capsule Art Reviews: "Body in Fragments", "Exit Art Portfolio Collection", "Perspectives 168: Anna Krachey, Jessica Mallios, and Adam Schreiber", "Recent Accessions in Design"
"Body in Fragments" The Menil is always great at creating little mini exhibits from its vast collection, grouping together and juxtaposing modern and contemporary works with primitive art. "Body in Fragments" is no exception. The title says it all — every piece on display contains an element of body fragmentation, what curatorial assistant Mary Lambrakos explains can mean many things in art, from metaphors for identity to the limitations of the body to the rise of industry and technology. Alongside African, Egyptian and Roman sculpture, there are works by René Magritte, Roy Lichtenstein and Yves Klein that employ fragmentation in many forms, such as Magritte's The Eternally Obvious, a vertical "performance" of five paintings depicting a female nude in pieces, and James Rosenquist's Promenade of Merce Cunningham, an image-within-an-image of black-and-white shoes against a colorful, ambiguous body part. There are playful pieces, such as Robert Gober's Untitled, a plaster sink basin occupied by creepy, hairy, beeswax "legs" wearing sandals with pull-tab buckles, and more menacing ones like Nancy Grossman's Blind Masked Head, which looks just like it sounds, a head form with a black leather bondage mask and metal spike sticking out the top. The inclusion of Michelangelo Pistoletto's Division and Multiplication of the Mirror is a nice touch. The double mirrors force us to see ourselves in fragments, investing viewers deeper into the works on display. Through February 28. The Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross,713-525-9400. — TS
"Exit Art Portfolio Collection" Perhaps the oddest gallery in town, Colton & Farb Gallery, the new incarnation of Deborah Colton Gallery, includes socialite/self-proclaimed "First Lady of Philanthropy," Dr. Carolyn Farb as partner and boasts former car dealership magnate/enthusiastic art collector and patron Les Marks as gallery director. All right, then. But through January 16, in addition to checking out Farb's unbelievable wardrobe, you can also check out a pretty great print show. Benefiting NYC's Exit Art, a veteran nonprofit cultural center, the exhibition is a retrospective of the organization's annual print portfolios. Among the standouts is Project X, a wonderfully witty piece by Fred Wilson that pairs an image of Malcolm X with John Singer Sargent's Madame X. There's also work from dozens of other heavy hitters, among them Louise Bourgeois, Sol LeWitt, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Kiki Smith and many, many more. Through January 16. 2445 North Blvd, 713-869-5151. — KK
"Perspectives 168: Anna Krachey, Jessica Mallios, and Adam Schreiber" For its ongoing "Perspectives" series, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is exhibiting the work of three Austin-based photographers — Anna Krachey, Jessica Mallios and Adam Schreiber — who investigate the ways photography distorts or reinvents our perception of the visible world. In many of the photos, an object's or an environment's identity is called into question. Immediately we ask ourselves, "What am I looking at?" Of the three, Krachey has the most interesting work on display, although all of them score points for technical ability — the prints are nice and large, and the subject matter requires a big presentation to really make an impression. Krachey, though, goes further in her search for narrative. There's more mystery in her work; Galaxycrop, a close-up shot of a television screen, displays what looks like the beginning of the Universal Pictures logo that precedes a film. Schreiber's and Mallios's photos feel more objective and academic. After all, there's not a single photo of a person on display, so it takes a lot of patience to unlock these images and get into the groove of this show. Master photogs like William Eggleston can get away with shooting soulless subjects and make us care. The problem with much of this imagery, including Schreiber's studies of enigmatic geometric models, is that it's just too banal. Much of it has the feel of a photography-class assignment. Through February 7. 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250. — TS
"Body in Fragments"
"Recent Accessions in Design" If I ever win the lottery, I'm hiring Cindi Strauss, the MFAH's curator of all that is great design, as my personal shopper. This show has some incredible stuff, and the chairs are particularly wonderful. There's a classic 1934 design, a Gerrit Rietveld Zig Zag Chair, made from just four simple panels of wood. Also on view is Shiro Kuramata's 1976 glass armchair, whose six glass panels provide an elegant and deceptively simple counterpart to the worn wood of Rietveld's Zig Zag. Meanwhile, Joris Laarman's 2008 burnished black-resin Bone Rocker is supported by an amazingly smooth skeleton-like structure. All of a piece, it grows together so beautifully and organically that the museum's "do not touch" policy is hard to obey. Through February 21. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300. — KK
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