Capsule Art Reviews: "Book Report" "Insperity Golf Experience" "Mary McCleary: A Survey 1996-2011" "Oil Sketches by Kim Dingle" "Raimund Girke 1930-2002" "Seth Mittag: We're Still Here..." "Working in the Abstract: Rethinking the Literal"
"Book Report" As the electronic word slowly usurps the printed word, books are becoming increasingly fetishized. "Book Report," organized by Kinzelman Art Consulting in the lobby of the Bank of America building, brings together a host of book-related works. Given all the recent bank bailouts (and my personal animosity towards BoA and the jacked-up interest rate on my credit card), I found it particularly fitting that the show includes Conrad Bakker's carved and painted replica of a Penguin Classics edition of Karl Marx's Capital: Volume One, displayed in a vitrine. Other works are hung on temporary walls, including images from art duo Manual's ongoing series of book photographs. Their great homages to Josef Albers's square paintings, featuring books of different sizes and colors stacked on each, are on view. Daniela Comani offers images from her series "New Publications," in which the gender-specific titles of classic literature are tweaked — as are the viewer's assumptions. The digitally manipulated photos of slightly used paperpack covers are spot-on, and it takes more than a moment to notice Dostoyevsky's Sisters Karamazov or Ralph Ellison's Invisible Woman. Meanwhile, Darryl Lauster's cast-resin books turn reading material into dark, weighty slabs that come across like small-scale monoliths. It's an incredibly nice show and would be for any venue, let alone a bank lobby. If you work downtown, you should definitely check it out, and if you don't, it's worth the trip. Through December 29. Bank of America Center, 700 Louisiana. For information, call Kinzelman at 713-533-9923. — 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
"Mary McCleary: A Survey 1996-2011" The Art League Houston named Mary McCleary Artist of the Year and is presenting a jam-packed 15-year survey of her work. McCleary is widely known for her collages, which incorporate "paint, paper, rag board, foil, glitter, sticks, wire, mirrors, pencils, nails, glass, painted toothpicks, string, leather, lint, small plastic toys and other objects" to create figurative images. The face in a portrait might be comprised of hundreds of multicolored fragments of glass, while the background roils with bits of painted string. The work is incredibly well-crafted and wonderfully obsessive, but there is something missing. Even allowing for the 15-year time span, there isn't a consistency of vision in the work, only a consistency of materials. Some of McCleary's imagery seems as if it is trying to have an edge — a living-room scene of a white, upper-middle-class family might have some dysfunctional back-story, a work depicting boys with sticks may be trying for Lord of the Flies overtones — while others, like a natural history museum-esque arrangement of moths, go in other directions. The materials trump the figurative imagery and whatever content McCleary is trying to imbue it with. The most successful work in the show is the artist's 2006 Sehnsucht, a giant floral arrangement that calls to mind 17th-century Dutch still lifes but is fascinatingly comprised of tiny beads, snippets of paper and string. Here you aren't wondering what the hell the relationship might be between the imagery and the materials. It's exuberantly and masterfully decorative but feels less craftsy. It's much more successful as a fine art piece than many of the works with seemingly more "important" subject matter. Through November 12. 1953 Montrose, 713-523-4053. — KK
"Oil Sketches by Kim Dingle" There used to be a lot of "house galleries" in Houston, Montrose bungalows turned into exhibition spaces. But the real estate boom and townhome craze of the late '90s and early 2000s took care of most of them. Hopefully, artist Sharon Engelstein is leading a revival. Engelstein and her husband, painter Aaron Parazette, have turned the front parlor of their 1920 bungalow into a great gallery space. The Front Gallery's inaugural show features L.A. artist Kim Dingle's oil sketches — brushy, gestural images of chubby-legged little girls in puffy-sleeved white dresses, white socks and black Mary Janes. Neither saccharine vintage children's illustrations nor creepy Henry Darger characters, Dingle's girls are decidedly self-possessed. Pouting, clowning or angry, they wear frilly clothes symbolic of the stereotypical "girlishness" they choose to ignore. Through November 26. Front Gallery, 1412 Bonnie Brae, 713-298-4750. — KK
"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
"Seth Mittag: We're Still Here..." Seth Mittag got his MFA from the University of Houston in 2003. He just returned to Houston after three years in New York doing Claymation for the likes of Michael Eisner, Moveon.org, and Nickelodeon. Now Mittag is channeling those skills into his art. His installation behind the glass wall of the EMERGEncy Room Gallery in Rice University's art building looks camera-ready. It's a not-unfamiliar scene of rural tragedy, a single-wide trailer after a tornado. All of the doll-size details are perfect, with the wracked trailer frame lodged in the branches of a tree, its walls erupting with pink insulation and spewing plywood and two-by-fours. A window-unit air conditioner lies on the ground beneath it, and the tree branches are festooned with a pair of Jockey shorts and a short sleeve western-style work shirt. Peering inside the house, you can see a deer head torn from the wall and lying on a collapsing counter. Then you notice the pair of shoes, er, feet in the living room. They belong to a man in a T-shirt and jeans obstinately occupying an easy chair, his feet propped up on a cinder block. Squinting into the window of the bedroom, you can barely make out a small, blond-haired boy in overalls, lying on a mattress. He stares up at the ceiling in shock or in a daydream. You can't tell which, but the scene is bursting with possible narratives. I hope it finds its way into a Mittag film as well. Through October 27. The EMERGEncy Room Gallery, Rice University Campus, 6100 Main, Sewall Hall, 4th Floor. Closing reception: 7 to 10 p.m. October 27. – 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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