Capsule Art Reviews: "Guns and Roses," "Heinrich Kühn: The Perfect Photograph," "Henry Horenstein: Show," "This Is Displacement: Native Artists," "Voodoo Pop: Mary Hayslip and Trey Speegle," "Wendy Wagner: Once Uponse a Time in the Land o
"Guns and Roses" On the surface, the new show at Anya Tish Gallery recalls happy childhood memories and tooth-rotting sweetness. But there's dark commentary lurking in the work of Texas artists Shannon Cannings and Ann Wood. Cannings paints toy guns with an emphasis on their bright colors and plastic details, like the "wood grain" in the stock of a green water-machine-gun. She paints each toy firearm as if it were mounted on a wall, capturing the glowing shadows cast through colored plastic. One work, Cross Your Heart, is an image of an Annie Oakley-style rifle with pink stock and shoulder strap. The way the strap hangs from the gun casts a shadow resembling the shape of a cross-your-heart bra. The seven pieces are all beautiful, and they challenge our recollections of childhood fun with the argument that they teach kids to be violent. Wood's installation Snare is an intensely bright scene of bunnies, a tall cake and roses coated in frosting-like substances and what looks like poured pink taffy. The bunnies are taxidermy forms, and the pink "taffy" is actually poured foam. Wood translates the sweet, pleasing attraction of candy and dessert into an image of suffering and encroaching death. It recalls pictures of birds covered in oil from the BP disaster. Emotionally, it sweeps you from enjoying its silliness to seeing it as a symbol of the ultimate humiliation of nature. Through June 4. Anya Tish Gallery, 4411 Montrose, 713-524-2299. — TS
"Heinrich Kühn: The Perfect Photograph" Photographs by Heinrich Kühn radiate bourgeois languor. His images from the early years of the 20th century conjure visions of privileged Viennese children on country outings with their governess, flower-filled vases, and women in billowing skirts. Working in various photographic processes, like gum bichromate, which create soft-edged images, Kühn (1866-1944) made prints that resemble pastel or charcoal drawings in their subtlety. Part of the Pictorialist movement that approached photography as an artistic medium, Kühn even ventured into color using multi-layered processes to create works like Mary Warner and Edeltrude, his 1908 image of his daughter with the family's governess. Warner (who seems to have had something more than an employee/employer relationship with the widowed Kühn) is shown in a vividly blue, wasp-waisted Edwardian dress. Like many of the photographer's images, it is shot in an open field, implying a leisurely family outing. In reality, Kühn's photographs took hours, as his sitters, mainly his children and Warner, held poses or sat waiting for the sun and shadows to move into perfect composition. The images were far less leisurely than they appear, not to mention the fact that Kühn continued to create them as the carnage of WWI encroached. Through May 30. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 5601 Main, 713-639-7300. — KK
"Henry Horenstein: Show" Fans of burlesque, striptease, drag and general alternative performance won't want to miss John Cleary Gallery's sexy exhibition of Henry Horenstein's moody photography. Simply titled "Show," the exhibit definitely puts one on. Horenstein, who at one time documented American country music's slide into the pop realm, has always been interested in subcultures, and this show is a grainy, high-contrast series of black-and-white scenes of fetish and titillation. Horenstein's images don't capture America's heartland at all; everything's pretty much shot in New York and Los Angeles — there's only one photo taken in New Orleans, which is surprising. I wished there were more of a connection between coasts. There's a lot of fishnets, pasties, closeups on tattoos, ass shots, piercings, nipples, knife-throwing and flame-blowing, which isn't all that intriguing as a subject — burlesque and underground carnival acts have been back in vogue for going on two decades now. What makes Horenstein's photos exceptional is his use of shadow, contrast and natural grain, which can't be experienced fully in a digital photo. My favorite was a photo of a woman's ass, titled Butt, RiFiFi, New York, NY, framed horizontally, with the white cheeks separated by black panties at the bottom lower left. It's abstract in composition; it took more than a few seconds to go, "Oh, it's an ass." But that's just one example. Horenstein's camera crystallizes the intimate, entertaining, arousing and soulful essence of burlesque. Through May 28, John Cleary Gallery, 2635 Colquitt, 713-524- 5070. — TS
"This Is Displacement: Native Artists" As an educational exhibit about the cultural displacement felt among Native Americans, the current group show at DiverseWorks suits the purposes of curator Carolyn Lee Anderson and co-curator Emily Johnson. Both artists are tribal descendents and share an internal longing for their ancestral cultures. As an art exhibit, however, the results are mixed. The works on display vary from folksy stuff to high-quality conceptual work, and there are hits and misses along the way (Anderson's own Self Portrait: Between Dinetah and Mni Sota is a particularly cheesy and New Age-y "miss"). But overall, the show scores for its range of personality and idiosyncratic portrait of the Native psyche. Standouts include Shan Goshorn's quirky photograph Indin Car, a snapshot of guys dressed in Native gear and makeup, in a truck and perhaps on the way to a festival performance. Take away the context, though, and they could be en route to a bizarre metal show. The Brady Bunch goes to the reservation in Kennetha Greenwood and Kimberly Rodriguez's A Very Braidy Bunch, two photo assemblages that mimic the TV show's iconic theme grid image. On the left, a stereotypical depiction, complete with a teenage mother and an old drunk; on the right, a grid of success stories (a doctor, a graduate, a musician). In Daniel McCoy Jr.'s poppy, comic-bookish Andrew Jackson Meets Voltron, the seventh president and enforcer of the Indian Removal Act is challenged by the early-'80s anime character at the scene of an Indian genocide. And Nicolas Galanin's hypnotic two-part video Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan juxtaposes a dancer poppin' and lockin' to tribal percussion with the same dancer performing a ceremonial dance (in tribal costume) to contemporary electronic music, artfully linking past and present. Through June 11, DiverseWorks, 1117 E. Fwy., 713-223-8346. — TS
"Voodoo Pop: Mary Hayslip and Trey Speegle" This retrospective exhibition embodies three decades of Trey Speegle and Mary Hayslip's friendship, featuring items from their personal collections, paintings, collage, textile works, bits of correspondence and photos. After bonding with Hayslip in late-'70s Houston, Speegle relocated to NYC in 1980, but he and Hayslip remained friends for over 30 years while continuing their art careers. Speegle's work dominates the show, especially selections of his poppy paint-by-numbers pieces, which re-purpose vintage paint-by-numbers canvases to imagine hidden messages embedded within them — like You Who (self portrait), an image of a clown with the title text spelled in the exposed numbered outlines of the painting's surface. Other standout work includes Gold Carolyn, a portrait of Carolyn Farb from a 1981 Speegle show called "RePOP," which was a kind of Warholian take on Houston celebs including Marvin Zindler, Lynn Wyatt and Dominique de Menil; Hayslip's laminated magazine-paper flowers; and a display case with postcards, small sculptures, jewelry and photos of the two artists during the '80s. It's a sweet selection of artifacts from a friendship in art. Through June 24. Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530. — TS
"Wendy Wagner: Once Uponse a Time in the Land of O-Poppida" 2008 Hunting Prize winner Wendy Wagner makes fantasy-world imagery from the childlike realm of puppy dogs and cartoons. In early 2008, she presented her animated short The Eternity of a Second in DiverseWorks' "Flicker Fusion" video exhibit. That video (and others), as well as framed still images from Eternity and sculpture based on its content, appears in this show alongside a series of recent mixed-media paintings depicting children and animals. Sgt. Rock is a portrait of the artist's stepson posing with a Gatorade squirt bottle, binoculars hanging around his neck, wearing sunglasses with a large blue-glass bowl over his head like a helmet. It's as if he's prepared to hike the apple-green mountain range in the background. Me-and-ma Brownie Bling is another humorous portrait. A little blond girl in Brownie uniform smiles for her picture, revealing a gold front tooth. As in Sgt. Rock and Wagner's other child portraits on display, her subjects are surrounded by a rusticated comic-book-style border, adding a heightened mythical quality to the imagery. Through June 9. Darke Gallery, 320 Detering, 713-542-3802. — TS
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