Capsule Art Reviews: "Carlos Cruz-Diez: Crosswalk," "Carlos Runcie-Tanaka: Fragmento," "Perspectives 166: Torsten Slama," "Toil and Trouble"
"Carlos Cruz-Diez: Crosswalk" You only have to drive past the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to see some of the hippest public art in Houston. The 86-year-old Carlos Cruz-Diez, a pioneer of optically kinetic art, has created an amazing street installation for the MFAH's crosswalks along Bissonnet/Binz Street. Cruz-Diez's vibrant pattern of horizontal and diagonal lines overlays Houston's potholed and eroded asphalt streets with dynamic art. It makes you wonder why we don't do this to all of our crosswalks. The artist has created street installations before, but this is his first in the United States. The Venezuelan artist's work was one of the standouts in the MFAH's landmark survey of Latin American avant-garde art, "Inverted Utopias," and is included in the current MFAH exhibition "North Looks South," so you might want to park the car and head inside. Plus, they've got great air conditioning. Through December 31. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300. — KK
"Carlos Runcie-Tanaka: Fragmento" Runcie-Tanaka, a native of Peru with Japanese and British heritage, makes ceramic sculpture that integrates his many cultural influences — which are indeed indicative of Peru. According to the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, the works function as symbols of spiritual growth and interethnic unity. It's unfortunate that the museum's installation tries too hard to emphasize those aspects. The dark, solemn lighting is fine — one work, Tiempo Detenido, actually requires it (and it's used to great effect). But the cheesy Peruvian flute music that permeates the gallery detracts from the universal nature of the sculptures as objects, and beautiful ones. Huayco/Kawa/Rio is a series of spherical forms incorporating shards of broken pottery that references Japanese ceramics. Manto continues the fragment theme; it's a low glass case displaying a layer of pottery shards that have been haphazardly pieced back together interspersed with forms that look as if they were purposely slumped in the kiln. It's an interesting piece to consider, but it's loaded by its environment to suggest a spiritual mystery that somehow cheapens its fascination in chaos. You may find yourself, as I did, wandering around to find the source of those damn flutes. Through October 18. 1502 Alabama,713-529-6900. — TS
"Perspectives 166: Torsten Slama" Austrian artist Torsten Slama's drawing style has its origins in the obsessive pencil sketches done by geeky adolescent boys. (You remember, the guys who designed elaborate rocket cars or painstakingly illustrated all their D&D characters.) I don't know what his high school sketchbooks looked like, but the 42-year-old Slama's work now depicts stark and ambiguous scenes. Bleak domestic and industrial structures (often with phallic tanks and towers) appear in barren landscapes — a baboon stands sentinel-like in front of one factory building. A strangely buff, bearded Sigmund Freud look-alike appears in multiple works, clothed and unclothed. The presence of "Freud" is initially amusing and then disturbing. Appearing alongside young men and boys, Freud seems more pederast than analyst. Slama's is an unsettling and painstakingly surreal world. Through August 2. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250. — KK
"Carlos Cruz-Diez: Crosswalk"
"Toil and Trouble" This curious exhibit spotlights seven artists whose work incorporates themes of chaos, the supernatural and a kind of ritualistic handling of technique. Virtually all the artists involved score on some level; it's strong work all around. Standouts include Robyn O'Neil, who delivers a set of recent drawings depicting tiny bodies and heads either interacting with, or floating against, hallucinatory images of weather or the elements, nicely composed by utilizing vast spaces of white paper. Pamela Chapman paints sections of riverbanks, elegantly rendered pools of swirling water, vegetation and debris, like trash, a pink comb and confetti, transforming otherwise banal subjects into strange abstractions. Emilio Perez's acrylic and latex paintings embody both the streetwise edge of graffiti and comic-book graphics. He meticulously cuts away layers of paint to reveal inherent patterns and abstract logistics that represent rapidly fluctuating chaos. And Natasha Bowdoin culls inspiration from literature for her incredibly intricate paper works that seem to somehow translate text into complicated 3-D textures and layers, like she's channeling a book's psychic shape and wavelength. Mind-boggling stuff. Through August 16. CTRL Gallery, 3907 Main, 713-523-2875. — TS
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