Capsule Art Reviews: "Chantal Akerman: Moving Through Time and Space," "Death and Shit Like That," "Tony Berlant," "A Visceral Valentine," " Perspectives 159: Superconscious, Automatisms Now"
"Chantal Akerman: Moving Through Time and Space" This show at the Blaffery Gallery will quietly blow away just about any video installation you have ever seen. Chantal Akerman is a filmmaker who creates video installations filled with cinematic power. She has been called "the most important European director of her generation." The standout of the show is From the East: Bordering on Fiction, (D'est: Au bord de la fiction). It's a 1995 film Akerman shot in East Germany, Poland, the Baltic States and Russia shortly after the fall of communism. It's not really a documentary; it's not fiction; and it doesn't have much of a narrative. Akerman says she "filmed everything that touched me," simply turning her camera on the people and cities, but the results are mesmerizing. The amazing panorama of images are everyday but somehow extraordinary. Unfortunately, there's a problem with acoustics in this show. They're at their worst in Akerman's installation Down There (Là-bas) (2006). This is a more straightforward, single-channel projection on one wall shot by Akerman in Tel Aviv when she was there teaching. Most of the film was shot through the windows of the furnished apartment she has rented; you feel a sense of depression, a sense of confinement and isolation. She reveals herself through precious clues provided by occasional narration, but the problem is, you can't freakin' hear those precious clues. The Blaffer has always been a difficult space; in general the acoustics are terrible. A tremendous amount of effort went into arranging this exhibition — I wish more effort had gone into mediating the acoustic problems. Through March 29. 120 University of Houston, Fine Arts Building, 713-743-9530.— KK
"Death and Shit Like That" This gathering of drawings at Domy Books shows Houston street artist YAR! has many friends who can tug the heart with just the flick of a pen. Curator YAR! communicates regularly with these prolific, inspiring artists — who hail from the Netherlands, Spain, France, Argentina, Massachusetts, Houston and Florida — on the Web site Flickr. There are clear connections between these works that transcend locale. Local artist Seth Alverson's ominous painting of an open coffin looms over the show, but the walls are covered in a smattering of smaller works on paper. There are the sensuous watercolors and disembodied dream world of Ola Vasiljeva; more concrete figures by Stéphane Prigent and Frédéric Fleury, cartoonish bodies with layers of loose color and rivulets of clashing pigment; and Irana Douer's beautifully simple female face with pursed lips and closed eyes, copied over and over in different poses in simple line drawings and cut paper. Matt Lock and Dean Sullivan create deeply emotional and paranoid compositions of skulls, bodies and sex with awkward outsider flatness. And Mark Hesterlee uses tribal rituals and pop references in his humorous marker-and-pen drawings. While death figures prominently in many of these artists' styles, they seem more alive than anything. Through March 15. 1709 Westheimer, 713-523-3669. — SC
"Tony Berlant" California-based Tony Berlant crafts colorful abstract collages using found tin scraps and fabricated and printed sheet tin. He fixes the pieces of tin to plywood using steel brads. The effect is like a jumbled-up puzzle put together incorrectly, like the pieces were hammered and forced into the wrong places, except Berlant intricately overlaps and massages shapes into his works. It isn't clear where Berlant finds the imagery printed on his fabricated tin, but it looks like cheesy wallpaper design — there are flower motifs, woody scenes with deer antlers, even what look like classic car patterns. Certain pieces employ a central representational image, like the birdlike shape at the center of Nest; others contain a well-scattered coverage of different colors and similar-sized scraps, like Sunny Side. Petrified Forest comes the closest to a recognizable correlation between image and title. Berlant has cleverly composed a realistic rendering of a petrified tree trunk broken in seven pieces. Also surprising is the textural element. The tin actually looks more like synthetic textile, rather than metal. Perhaps the steel brads suggest, in a way, a natural juxtaposition between fabric and metal. It's beautiful work. Through March 29. Texas Gallery, 2012 Peden, 713-524-1593. — TS
"A Visceral Valentine" More visceral than valentine, the current group show at Apama Mackey Gallery delivers a darkly comic look at love. Riffing on the February 14 holiday, there's also an exploration of color, particularly red and pink, on display here. Jennifer Tong's comic book panel A Romance depicts a young woman and her talking frog "boyfriend" going for a walk in the woods. She takes a nap in the grass, and bestial mythological molestation ensues; it's cute! Kuro Unagi (the artist's name is literally a species of freshwater eel) takes us to the disturbing side of animal love with a series of women engaging in sex acts with, you guessed it, eels. Think Patrick Nagel as a demented schoolboy, doodling in detention. Lisa Alisa contributes some colorful and visually engaging acrylic paintings of Asian females in various communions with animals. You can't miss Marcus Adams's airbrushed acrylic Three Legged Hermaphrodite; the deranged, grotesque Kewpie-doll-headed freak feels ever-present in the tiny gallery. And Yuka Yamaguchi's twisted illustrations of a little schoolgirl playing mutilation games with a giant rooster just might make your viscera a little queasy. Through March 23. 628 E 11th St., 713-850-8527. — TS
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