Capsule Art Reviews: "Book Report" "Insperity Golf Experience" "Matt Magee," "New Formations: Czech Avant-Garde Art and Modern Glass from the Roy and Mary Cullen Collection," "Oil Sketches by Kim Dingle," "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
"Matt Magee" Tape is de rigueur for painters seeking crisp, graphic abstraction. Matt Magee makes those kinds of paintings, but he works without a net — i.e., no tape. Filled with patterns and rows of shapes, some of the works get a bit of an optical hum going through color placements and the occasional op-art-y pattern. There are also heavy doses of Latin American avant-garde abstraction. Overall, however, much of this is work that could be sterile or facile if it weren't for its hard-won hand-painted surfaces. Conduit (2011) is a white panel filled with rows of neat blue scallops. It's only when you get close to them that you see the slight wonkiness and the dense brush strokes, a visual record of the artist's failed struggle for perfection. There is something wonderfully engaging and charming about Magee's paintings. Through November 26. Hiram Butler Gallery, 4520 Blossom St., 713-863-7097. — KK
"New Formations: Czech Avant-Garde Art and Modern Glass from the Roy and Mary Cullen Collection" Avant-garde Czech erotica, anyone? "New Formations," an assemblage of early 20th-century Czech work collected by Mary and Roy Cullen, presents some pretty wonderful things: everything from glassware to periodicals to the aforementioned erotica. And like most shows of private collections, you should visit it for the objects and glimpses of the period it contains rather than to receive a comprehensive overview. Jindrich Štyrský's 1933 text and photomontage, Emile Comes to Me in a Dream, was only distributed through the mail. One of his collages, on view in the show, illustrates why. A photo of a half-naked woman clutching a feathered fan is paired with a photo of a skeleton with its boot still on. Štyrský stuck an image of an erect penis over its pelvis. It captures the decadence bookended by the carnage of WWI and WWII. Tamer but equally impressive offerings in the show include amazing art glass from the '20s and '30s, in which Bohemian glassblowers turned their considerable skills to dramatic modern forms. Through February 5, 2012. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 5601 Main, 713-639-7300. — 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
"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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