Best of Houston®

Best Of 2004

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Sculpture Garden
Photo by Photo by Mark Larsen

The Artery Visit the Artery during the day, and it looks at first glance like an enclave for a neighborhood crack dealer. Surrounded by a dense thicket of hackberry trees and a rusting chain-link fence, the lot in the Museum District's residential area is full of rubble. Indeed, works by artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Frank Stella are much more likely to turn up a few blocks away at Houston's more famous sculpture enclave, the Cullen Sculpture Garden. But just as the sun sets and the Cullen goes dark, the Artery comes to life. The rubble -- loads of stone construction materials left on the lot by the previous owner -- takes shape as a series of intricate light sculptures set along winding, wooded paths. You'll find beakers bubbling over with smoke, illuminated ductwork weaving through patterned stacks of slate, and a fireplace enlivened by a fan, a light bulb and fluttering red cellophane. The mastermind behind the Artery, Houston artist Mark Larsen, has opened it to the public for talks and performances since 1987 -- and always free of charge (though donations are appreciated). Veteran patrons might want to check out the newest exhibit: burnished tree branches, half sculpted, half wild, that are bound in rope, blending in with the Artery's natural environment, yet jarring to the senses like captured beasts from a foreign jungle.

5401 Jackson, Houston, 77004
MAP
713-228-2052
Best Bar Decor

Under the Volcano Taking its cue from the Malcolm Lowry novel of the same name, Under the Volcano is a colorfully riotous celebration of El Día de los Muertos -- the Day of the Dead -- all year round. As you walk in, there's a glassed-in shrine to recent notables who have passed over, complete with clipped-out newspaper obituaries and fresh flowers. Boldly colored Mexican folk art statues, glowing tin lamps and dusty, old paper flowers cover the walls, which are themselves painted in festive pastel shades. The tropical theme even extends to the parking lot, which is walled in with oleanders, bougainvillea and other flowering shrubbery. The vibe here renders you powerless to resist ordering up one more drink.

2349 Bissonnet, Houston, 77005
MAP
713-526-5282
Best Bar Decor

Under the Volcano Taking its cue from the Malcolm Lowry novel of the same name, Under the Volcano is a colorfully riotous celebration of El Día de los Muertos -- the Day of the Dead -- all year round. As you walk in, there's a glassed-in shrine to recent notables who have passed over, complete with clipped-out newspaper obituaries and fresh flowers. Boldly colored Mexican folk art statues, glowing tin lamps and dusty, old paper flowers cover the walls, which are themselves painted in festive pastel shades. The tropical theme even extends to the parking lot, which is walled in with oleanders, bougainvillea and other flowering shrubbery. The vibe here renders you powerless to resist ordering up one more drink.

Best Jazz Club

Cezanne Sure, there are more glamorous spots to catch jazz in this town. You can delight in the sights of open-backed, little black dresses and power players at spots like Scott Gertner's Skybar or Sambuca. But jazz has always been about the music. And traditional, straight-ahead fans have always flocked to tiny rooms to listen to serious players. Tucked up above the Black Labrador, Cezanne is hardly noticeable to nonfans, but there it sits, home to local and statewide cats such as Kellye Gray, Sebastian Whittaker and David Craig, as well as the occasional national act. For jazz fans who love performance over pretension, shows here promise all the intimacy of an exclusive gig in your friend's living room.

4100 Montrose, Houston, 77006
MAP
713-522-9621
Best Jazz Club

Cezanne Sure, there are more glamorous spots to catch jazz in this town. You can delight in the sights of open-backed, little black dresses and power players at spots like Scott Gertner's Skybar or Sambuca. But jazz has always been about the music. And traditional, straight-ahead fans have always flocked to tiny rooms to listen to serious players. Tucked up above the Black Labrador, Cezanne is hardly noticeable to nonfans, but there it sits, home to local and statewide cats such as Kellye Gray, Sebastian Whittaker and David Craig, as well as the occasional national act. For jazz fans who love performance over pretension, shows here promise all the intimacy of an exclusive gig in your friend's living room.

Best Set Design

Infernal Bridegroom Productions' Symphony of Rats Stepping into the Axiom theater for Symphony of Rats was like entering an attic from another world. In a place where presidents receive messages from robots -- who make bubbles and smoke cigarettes as they discuss philosophical constructs -- Infernal Bridegroom's production of Richard Foreman's play called for serious set creativity. Designed by the company as a group, the stage was a crazy quilt of cartoon images with messages like "Oil Isn't Fuck Glitter" and "CB Head Face Machine" splattered across the cinder-block walls. TVs, space ships and skeletons drifted in the melee. Official-looking papers and folders were scattered across the floor, and in the middle of the stage sat an enormous Plexiglas box where the president of the free world tried to learn golf. Symphony of Rats came together with its own delicate logic, and it owed much of its success to this chaotic atmosphere.

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