"A Fiction of Authenticity: Contemporary Africa Abroad" This exhibition, organized by the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and co-curated by Shannon Fitzgerald and Tumelo Mosaka, does not set out to make a sweeping statement about contemporary African art; instead, it seeks to raise interesting questions about the West's expectations of "authenticity." It includes commissioned works from 11 artists, all born between 1956 and 1975. Most attended art school, and all live abroad and are part of the international contemporary art scene. The curatorial theme rests awkwardly on some of the works in the show, but one standout piece does seem to have been prompted by ideas of "authenticity." Zineb Sedira created a video installation in which she tries to get the true story of her parents' past. Sedira projects herself, silently listening, on one wall. On the opposite wall, two video projections, one of her father and one of her mother, play side by side, detailing what life was like for them in Algeria during the war for independence from France, and after they emigrated to France. It's a powerful and intimate piece. But after a while with this show, the whole authenticity thing starts to become labored, like some artistic game of Where's Waldo? Odili Donald Odita has some really nice paintings; they're hard-edged and abstract, with angled bands of colors. The patterns have a vaguely African feel, but, according to the curators, the colors reflect Odita's experience growing up in the American suburbs. The exhibition too often feels hobbled by the curator's desire to connect the art in the show to their curatorial premise. While individual works succeed, the exhibition ultimately feels awkward. Through November 11 at the Blaffer Gallery, The Art Museum of the University of Houston, 120 Fine Arts Building, 713-743-9521.
"Ryan Geiger" Geiger's crisply executed paintings juxtapose a variety of surreal images. Geiger's painting style is wonderfully precise and reminiscent of 1950's illustration styles. In the works on view at Rudolph Projects/Artscan Gallery, tree stumps, birds and clouds vie with rollercoaster tracks, text and weird, floating stalactites. Using a vintage-looking color palate, Geiger produces large horizontal paintings with formal arrangements of painted borders and medallions containing images. There are several nice large works on view, but the surprising standouts of the show are the many small, tightly executed paintings. They aren't as elaborately composed as the larger works but something about paintings like Creator (2006) is really appealing. Creator has a background of curving, abstract forms but in its center floats a blue, brain-like cloud sprouting branches and roots like the dendrites of nerve cells. Geiger is a talented painter who seems to be getting better and better. Through November 25 at Rudolph Projects/Artscan Gallery, 1836 Richmond, 713-807-1836.
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