Capsule Art Reviews: "The Clearing — Joey Fauerso," "Evergreen: Original Contemporary Prints," "Exurb: Input/Output," "George Gittoes: Witness to War," "Jackie Gendel: Fables in Slang," "Jenny Schlief Stock Photography: From the Woman Series"
"The Clearing — Joey Fauerso" For "The Clearing," Joey Fauerso takes found, generic landscape scenes and inhabits them with photos of naked men. In one, a bearded, generally hairy man is leaping off a river rock while a majestic waterfall cascades in the background. In another, the same man (I think) stands watching at the edge of a lake while a geyser (I think) erupts in a plume of water. The men are obviously photographs that have been glued to the surface of the low-res inkjet prints, which seems sloppy. The images would be more successful if Fauerso embedded the men more seamlessly into the landscapes. Don't miss Fauerso's video Me Time, in which the artist French-kisses a series of generic puppets: a fireman, a policeman, a construction worker and a nurse. It's disturbingly sincere and hilarious. Through July 23. Box 13 ArtSpace, 6700 Harrisburg, 713-533-8692. — TS
"Evergreen: Original Contemporary Prints" Print Houston 2011, a celebration of artist prints, is finding its way into multiple venues around town. Philomena Gabriel Contemporary has an interesting selection of prints for sale from the collection of Sharon and Gus Kopriva. The Koprivas have amazing stuff, and it's a great opportunity to see little-known works by well-known names. There's a quirky cartoon-like 1970 lithograph from Jim Dine, the result of a collaboration with the poet Ron Padgett. Kiki Smith's Flying Squirrel lithograph is a cute/creepy image of a gravity-defying rodent. Gerhard Richter's silkscreen Swiss Alps looks like a gorgeously stylized avalanche. There's even a really funny 1980 Joseph Beuys work entitled DDR-Bag. It's a yellowed paper shopping bag stamped with images like a men's hat and a woman's slip. The text on it translates as "always stylishly dressed," which is richly ironic given the East German title. The bag is also stamped with Beuys's own official-looking mark, a mockery of DDR bureaucracy. Through July 2. 3227½ Milam, 713-523-7424. — KK
"Exurb: Input/Output" It's very appropriate that this interactive audio/video installation at the Joanna is running simultaneously with the Stan VanDerBeek survey at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. In the main room at the Joanna, the creators of "Exurb: Input/Output," artist-engineers Johnny DiBlasi, Steven Kraig, Patrick Renner, Sam Singh and Eric Todd, have constructed two Plexiglas arches outfitted with theremins and tube amps that respond with tone variations and video manipulations on four screens when bodies maneuver under and around them. The piece is a kind of comment on social media, the idea that our daily movements leave electronic imprints through the pervasive presence of wireless technology. The artists are admittedly influenced by VanDerBeek's experiments in computer imaging, and the installation is deliberately designed to display the technological implements it utilizes — you can see the theremin antennas, amplifiers and computer equipment encased in the clear Plexiglas. But the audio "action" is subtler than we expected. The installation's dominant sound is a loud, aggressive drone reminiscent of the soundtracks of David Lynch films (the artists are fans), and there's a kind of nightmarish feeling of sinister surveillance, especially in the way one video projection tracks human bodies visually, in real time, through the electric signals received by the theremin. It makes you want to turn off your GPS and suspend your Facebook and Twitter accounts (at least for just a little while). Through July 15. The Joanna, 1401 Branard, 713-825-1803. — TS
"George Gittoes: Witness to War" Australian artist George Gittoes isn't afraid to put himself at the epicenters of some of the worst acts of human brutality on the planet in order to make his art. His travels have taken him to Rwanda, Bosnia, Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan, among other war-torn countries. This exhibit at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art is the first major presentation of his artwork in the United States. It's chilling, disgusting, journalistic and entertaining all at once. As a visual diary of Gittoes's experiences, the show is a massive dose of illustrated storytelling told through installation, video, drawing, painting, collage and the handwritten word. It takes several hours to experience it all, and we didn't try to soak it all up, because even an hour's worth is excruciatingly depressing. But we agree with Gittoes that it's absolutely necessary for us to look. The artist is holding a mirror up to the evil and ugliness of the world, hoping that will, in effect, destroy evil—like Perseus using a reflection to kill Medusa. A grotesque mythology is employed in Gittoes's work, too. Out of very real evil he constructs graphic-novel-esque narratives about supernatural soldiers and mutant wars rooted in the emotional reality of genocide. In Assumption, a cloud of bloodied, mutilated bodies ascends toward...Heaven, maybe? Another painting takes inspiration from a photograph of a severely beaten Rwandan boy (or maybe a girl?) and transforms it into a hellish image of violence in action. On the entertaining side, don't miss the impressively realized installation of a video store in the Taliban-controlled city of Peshawar. The Taliban are known for bombing such businesses, and Gittoes presents one in incredible detail, with video monitors and walls covered in hilarious DVD covers created by Gittoes himself. It slyly comments on the absurdity of an anti-technology culture using technology to destroy technology (and culture). Through July 17. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900. – TS
"Jackie Gendel: Fables in Slang" Houston-born Jackie Gendel paints portraits and people in a style that recalls a number of late-19th-early-20th-century French painters, but with cranked-up distortion. Her people are constantly obscured by a surface abstraction, or they retreat into the background, virtually faceless with the furniture and decor surrounding them. Chaty and Marthe in the Kitchen is perhaps this series's most striking work, and it demonstrates Gendel's anti-narrative approach. Two women sit at a kitchen table looking epically bored. Their faces and hair are the most detailed parts of the painting, which is brilliantly colored as well. In fact, its brightness is in direct opposition to the malaise depicted. In Calloway, a 1930s-era man is surrounded by wild abstraction that is threatening to envelop him. In a trio of small gouache-on-paper works, Gendel's subjects turn noir-ish, suggesting an unknowable evil in the characters' black-and-white eyes. Field of Mars III looks like a scene out of Greek Myth updated by the presence of a woman in a 1980s outfit and hairdo. Gendel challenges our notions of art and history with mischievous and dreamy flourishes. Through July 2. Bryan Miller Gallery, 3907 Main, 713-523-2875. — TS
"Jenny Schlief Stock Photography: From the Woman Series" In Jenny Schlief's ongoing "Stock Photography" series (with photography by Jenny Antill), Schlief stages her own versions of photos she found while searching the Web sites shutterstock.com and istockphoto.com, using the keywords "fun woman." She poses (in a variety of wigs) wearing headphones and singing into a hairbrush, happily eating what looks like salmon sashimi, working on a laptop, and practicing generic yoga/meditation. Schlief captures the vapidity and non-identity of "stock," and she adds funny and sarcastic commentary by switching the photos' context and photographic purpose (although she says the photos will be available to purchase at those Web sites). It makes you question the motives and methods of those in the stock business. Through July 23. Box 13 ArtSpace, 6700 Harrisburg, 713-533-8692. — TS
"Musicians Who Make Art" When speaking of crossover in art forms, perhaps musicians and visual artists are most successful at achieving success in each other's fields of expertise. Through their manual manipulations of instruments and materials, musicians and visual artists seem naturally inclined to swing between the visual image and the sonic composition. The Art Car Museum is proving it with its current exhibit "Musicians Who Make Art." Largely a Texas-based conglomeration of art, the show includes works by well-known musicians like Butch Hancock of the Flatlanders, whose otherworldly prints evoke sci-fi fantasy, and Joe Ely, who contributes a photo montage/collage of funny, prison-themed DIY infographics. Austin's Bob Schneider's contribution is most surprising, with his outlandish and meticulously detailed etchings and aquatints. (We actually like his artwork more than his music.) Ken Little and Bryan Wheeler are better known as visual artists first (who also play in bands), and their works on display are among the most visually arresting in the exhibit. Wheeler's Infinite Jest takes cues from Jasper Johns in its striking amalgamation of pop and abstract imagery, while Little's Black Jacket Moose amuses as a taxidermied moose head impressively outfitted in black leather and a selection of sporting-good footgear. On the local end, standouts include work by local concept-rock legend Beans Barton, Two Star Symphony's Jo Bird and the Sideshow Tramps' Craig Kinsey. Our favorite is a piece that addresses the quintessential meeting of art and music: the album cover. Jessica DeCuir of San Antonio's Hyperbubble deconstructs the covers of Blondie's Parallel Lines, Men at Work's Business as Usual and the Rolling Stones' Tattoo You into a cool, abstract grid. Through August 7. 140 Heights, 713-861-5526. – TS
"Nathan Green: Fill the Sky" Art Palace is one of our favorite galleries, but we just don't get Nathan Green's current show "Fill the Sky." Some of the 25 abstract, mixed-media works score on their own, like Gradients, a conglomeration of black-and-white cylindrical forms that has a real sense of action in its composition, and Migration, a similar grouping of shapes with frenetic energy. But taken together, it feels like too much is on display. Abstract works can veer into embarrassing, this-is-bullshit territory, and some of the stuff here unfortunately does. It should have been edited. One wall is cluttered with paintings of various sizes with no discernible method or structure in its installation. Another entire gallery wall has been painted in columns of gradient green and blue stripes with a few paintings hung to it. It looks good, and it's a puzzling technique, but there's a messiness to it (as well as in several other works) that gives off a slapdash, kindergarten-chic vibe. It's a strange hybrid of a conceptual installation and an everything-must-go blowout sale. Through July 2. 3913 Main, 281-501-2964. — TS
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