Capsule Art Reviews: "Hand+Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft", "Maurizio Cattelan", "Neopopstreetfunk II", "Steve Wolfe on Paper"
"Hand+Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft" This exhibit examines and emphasizes the integration of performance in contemporary art and craft. But don't expect to walk into the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and watch a show. While performances and events have been scheduled as part of the ongoing exhibition, many of the works on display have been augmented with video elements that document the ways in which the objects were used in performance. For instance, Ryan Gothrup makes objects out of glass that mimic objects made from other materials. Here, he presents a rack holding four basketballs. One is made of glass, but it's almost impossible to tell which without touching them. He also presents a disturbing video of a man shooting hoops at a public outdoor court, shattering several glass balls. Meant as a controlled, supervised performance with a production crew, the shooting is halted by a violent, deranged man threatening to call the cops on the artists for deliberately breaking glass in a public park. It's a train wreck that's both fascinating and infuriating to watch. Another standout is collaborative group Plan B's video of glass blowers doing some very dangerous things with molten glass — like juggling hot balls of it and using a long, hot strand of it as a jump rope. And don't miss Michael Rea's wooden re-creations of musical instruments and equipment: electric guitars, a sax, drums, keyboard, theremin, amps, pedals, power cords and even a cowbell. An accompanying video shows a "band" performing a pretend/karaoke rendition of the Bee Gees' "Jive Talkin'" using the displayed equipment. Through July 25. 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250. — TS
"Maurizio Cattelan" It's tempting to think that artist Maurizio Cattelan is putting one over on The Menil Collection. The Italian sculptor's works often tease art-world conventions and mock institutional authority. What's happened, though, in the delightful exhibition "Maurizio Cattelan," is a perfect harmony of two voices, the artist's and the institution's. Always smart in its approach to curation, the Menil has allowed Cattelan to make selections from the collection to display in juxtaposition with his own works, as well as install pieces within the museum's permanent exhibits. The result is a building-wide scavenger hunt that yields some pretty thrilling moments. And ironically, the Menil plays the trickster by figuring out an ingenious way to make patrons who only show up for the rotating exhibits check out the permanent ones again. There may not be a more perfect place for this experiment — Cattelan is a self-taught artist and was influenced greatly by surrealism. If one begins exploring the Menil at the west side of the building, Cattelan literally spells it out for us by choosing to display Joseph Kosuth's 1967 painting Titled. In white letters on a black canvas is the definition of the word "meaning." The majority of the Cattelan works on display are untitled, so introducing the definition of "meaning" seems to imply "abandon all hope of." The exhibition's major work is Cattelan's All, nine human figures lying horizontally on the floor that appear to be covered with white sheets — at least, that's what your brain tells you when you walk into the room. Closer inspection reveals a material of significantly greater substance. Another Cattelan work resides near a selection from Warhol's Electric Chair series. (You have to look for it.) And inside the surrealism galleries, find the hanging, upside-down hand with its fingers cut off (except for the middle one). Cattelan's summation of Dada, perhaps? Through August 15. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400. — TS
"Neopopstreetfunk II" For an exhibit billing itself as "bored with convention and the mainstream," "Neopopstreetfunk" seems to be anything but. Largely rooted in a street/urban aesthetic, some of this work is as commercial and mainstream as it gets. That's not necessarily bad, though, and there's much to love here. Robert Hodge delivers a strong series of collage works incorporating screen print, text and historical imagery into deftly crafted graphic compositions. Ales Bask Hostomsky contributes the amusing painting Full Service, in which the Grim Reaper, armed with sickle, waits for customers at Death's Garage. Wendy Brown successfully recycles starving-artist paintings of still lifes and landscapes by augmenting them with images of outdated technology and appliances. And Matt Messinger's two ultracool paintings Horse and Fucker feel destined for the walls of a chic boutique hotel. Kevin Peterson supplies the most compelling series of paintings, in which little girls, grade-school age and privileged, pose in front of graffiti walls. There's something haunting about the juxtaposition, a clashing of cultures that could signal a loss of innocence, or liberation from societal rules and expectations. Through July 17. M2 Gallery, 339 W. 19th St., 713-861-6070. — TS
"Steve Wolfe on Paper" "Steve Wolfe on Paper" is an interesting counterpoint to the "MANUAL on Books" exhibit at Moody Gallery. While the Moody show is essentially photographs of books, this Menil exhibit showcases Wolfe's trompe-l'oeil objects that "trick the eye," and which are largely depictions of books. Wolfe's best-known works look like worn-out paperbacks of titles like Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely, Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea and Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, made from wood, modeling paste, oil paint and screen print. They are exact replicas, down to their distressed spines, dog-eared corners and torn covers. Also on display are Wolfe's studies on paper for the objects, incredibly detailed drawings and screen prints of book covers, poster art and photographs, sometimes on their own and other times as collage — tributes to cultural heroes like J.D. Salinger, Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett and, of course, Andy Warhol, to whom Wolfe is perhaps most indebted. Don't miss Wolfe's reproductions of vinyl records, made from oil, enamel and graphite. It's the mass-made made handmade. Through July 25. The Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400. — TS
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