"Houston was not a city known for its abstract art until relatively recently," writes Menil Collection founding curator Walter Hopps in his forward to the "Five Artists: New Work" exhibition at DiverseWorks. Yet in his curatorial debut, art collector Bill Lassiter has managed to find five artists with fascinating takes on the form: David Aylsworth paints bold blocks of color; Francesca Fuchs incorporates oversized floral patterns and ceramic objects; Kathleen Packlick works in mixed-media grids; Robin Utterback uses "biomorphic forms"; and Casey Williams takes tightly cropped photographs of ships' hulls meeting the water, which are then reproduced and stretched like a painting on satin cloth. The exhibition is on view Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. through June 26. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, (713)223-8346. Free.
The Houston Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is breaking some new ground in this, its third year. Venue additions such as Angelika Film Center and Aurora Picture Show ought to bring in new crowds (unwitting Bayou Place patrons and heterosexual indie film hipsters, respectively). The "QuAC Mix-Up Video!" night will give local gay and lesbian filmmakers more of a voice in the festival than they've had in the past. But perhaps the most interesting thing about this year's Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is that it's finally daring to be edgy. Screw the homosexuals from prime-time network television who never have sex. This year at the Rice Media Center we get to see Hallelujah, a documentary about the HIV-positive performance artist Ron Athey who performs self-flagellation and bloodletting on stage as a personal religion. And at DiverseWorks, we'll learn the secrets of female ejaculation in a sexy how-to called Nice Girls Don't Do That. The festival opens today at Landmark's Greenway Theatre with the adolescent gay love story Get Real and continues through June 6 at venues throughout the city. See film listings or go to www.free web.pdq.net/ quac for times and locations. $5-$7.
Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen will be raising some hell -- and promoting his new CD, Walking Distance -- at his second annual tribute to local music, "Robert Earl Keen's Texas Uprising." Ian Moore, the Reverend Horton Heat, Junior Brown, Pat Green, Jack Ingram and Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys join him on the main stage; The Hollisters, Reckless Kelly, Charlie Robison and Trish Murphy play the smaller side stage. Gates open at noon. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive. Call (713)629-3700 or (281)363-3300 for tickets and information. $20-$35.
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Houston Ballet Artistic Director Ben Stevenson is a big fan of Glen Tetley. He has been after the world-renowned choreographer to create a world premiere for the Houston Ballet for 20 years. It became a running joke between the two: If Stevenson saw Tetley from across a crowded theater, he'd get his attention with the not-so-gentle reminder, "World premiere!" It's no wonder Stevenson was so persistent. Tetley is a historically important dance figure -- he was one of the first dancers to be a principal with American Ballet Theatre and a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company; he was one of the first choreographers to use classical technique as a springboard for contemporary choreography. And the Houston Ballet does really well with that classical-modern fusion -- from Stanton Welch's Indigo to Tetley's own Rite of Spring. "I think this company gobbles up new styles and ways of moving," says Stevenson. Tetley's Lux in Tenebris, from the Latin for "light in darkness," will star Lauren Anderson in its leading role. Also on the bill for Houston Ballet's Spring Repertory Program are the world premiere of former Paul Taylor dancer Lila York's Rules of the Game, a ballet inspired by the Jean Renoir film of the same name, and Stevenson's Four Last Songs, which received rave reviews when it was performed at The Kennedy Center in 1997. 2 p.m. matinee. Also, Thursday and Saturday, May 27 and 29, 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, June 4 and 5, 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, June 6, 2 p.m. Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas, (713)227-ARTS. $11-$85.
Kids are kind of fickle. Toys that lose their shine are tossed aside, clothes from third grade aren't cool in fourth, and when that puppy they wanted so desperately becomes a dog, you'll be the one doing the feeding and scooping. Canine Companions for Independence has the solution -- at least to the last problem. Your family can raise a carefully bred golden retriever, Labrador retriever, sheltie or Pembroke Welsh corgi from the age of seven weeks to 14 or 18 months. When the puppy gets big, he goes off to school to learn special skills such as pushing elevator buttons, turning on lights, sorting laundry and even paying with a credit card (we're not kidding) before getting placed as an assistance dog. A disabled person gets a chance for greater independence, your fickle kids start over with a new puppy, and all is right with the world. Call (760)754-3300 or go to www.caninecompanions.org/ for more information.
Amy Blakemore is a Glassell School core fellow made good. Since completing the artist-in-residence program in 1987, she has made her way as a Houston photographer, getting her work into the Museum of Fine Arts permanent collection and exhibiting with shows such as "Field of Vision: Five Gulf Coast Photographers" at the Contemporary Arts Museum. But she never had a solo show -- until this ten-year retrospective at Inman Gallery. The exhibition follows the artist's work from her early, casual "Story Pictures" series to her documentation of pilgrimages to such religious sites as Lourdes and Fatima; from her abstract landscape work to suburban images of her home state of Oklahoma. All of Blakemore's photographs have a slightly soft focus, thanks to her use of the Diana, a simple, plastic camera made in the 1950s and 1960s. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalog with essays by Anne Wilkes Tucker and Susie Kalil and is on view Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (until 8 p.m. on Thursday) through June 26 at Inman Gallery, 1114 Barkdull, (713)529-9676. Free.
They walk on stilts made from oil drums, play with Zippo lighters and make percussive music and movement out of everything from push brooms to garbage can lids to a stainless steel kitchen sink. That's right, the beautiful boys of Stomp are back. Born of the British busking band Pookiesnackenburger, Stomp, created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, had its premiere at the Edinburgh Festival in 1991. Since then, the show has toured France, Australia, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong, Italy and, of course, the U.S. It seems the whole world can't get enough of the troupe that has made tap dancing into an extreme sport. Stomp presents a free preview today at 11:30 a.m. on the City Hall steps at 901 Bagby. The show opens at 8 p.m. tonight and continues at that time through Friday, June 4. Also, Saturday, June 5, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., and Sunday, June 6, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, (713)227-