"Building Arts: Alexander Apostol, Dias & Riedweg, Thomas Glassford, Marco Maggi and Clarissa Tossin" "Futuristic" mid-century architecture ages badly; when clean, crisp lines and minimal surfaces become worn and grubby, they look like a failed dream. Clarissa Tossin's 2009 two-channel video White Marble Everyday records the repetitive labor that goes into preserving a particular modernist dream — Brasília's Oscar Niemeyer-designed Federal Supreme Court Building. Tossin's video captures a few minutes of the four hours workers spend Monday through Saturday scrubbing the white marble exterior floors, futilely trying to retain their utopian promise, a losing battle in Brasília. Tossin's work is a part of "Building Arts," yet another smart and interesting show from Sicardi Gallery. It's filled with work that draws on or references architectural structures. There's plenty of good work, and be sure to check out Alexander Apóstol's large, digitally altered photographs. Selecting 1950s modern buildings from Caracas's decaying downtown, Apóstol turns the aging structures into windowless, entranceless monoliths. Through November 12. Sicardi Gallery, 2246 Richmond, 713-529-1313. — 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
"Katja Loher: Multiverse" Not unlike Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, Swiss-born Katja Loher creates brightly surreal video worlds. The artist crafts kaleidoscopic visuals, setting unitard-clad female dancers against strange flora. The videos are hypnotic and riveting; the only problems are in the presentation. In an extremely successful installation in the back of the gallery, Loher amassed a cluster of huge white weather balloons and projected circles of video over their rounded forms. The artist's imagery and the balloon forms work incredibly well together. But in other pieces, Loher sets video screens behind circular openings in wall-hung panels. She then attaches thick glass spheres over them. The glass has nodules that distort the video in an interesting way but as an object, it's too much. The same goes for the circular screens set into a table like place mats and underneath a glass pitcher and goblets. These pieces are extremely slick and well-executed, but just because Loher can pull off these complicated objects/presentations doesn't mean she should. The video is strongest in its simplest presentation. Through November 23. Anya Tisch Gallery, 4411 Montrose, 713-524-2299 – KK
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"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
"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