A Thanksgiving Weekend Guide to Art Galleries

Think there's nothing to do but eat, shop or go to the movies during Thanksgiving weekend. Not true. Houston's art galleries, while not usually thought of as part of the Black Friday retail rush, are open. So are the museums. Here are a few suggestions for your weekend. Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, called Wols, was a hugely influential, if mostly commercially unsuccessful, painter and photographer during the first half of the 20th century. Wols's signature style is called tachisme, a term derived from a French word meaning ''stain,'' an appropriate description of his style. Wols's so-called stains contain recognizable shapes, ranging from kittens to breasts to nuclear explosions, all springing directly from his psyche to the canvas without premeditation. ''Wols,'' a retrospective currently on display at The Menil Collection, explores that spontaneity.

''The paintings are beautiful and mysterious, ranging from very raw and hermetic to luminous and otherworldly,'' Menil Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Toby Kamps says. ''Wols's early photographs from the 1930s were wildly inventive; the delicate dance between figuration and abstraction in all his drawings is fascinating. It's impossible to single out any one work; each one is a universe within itself.'' The exhibition features 20 paintings and 50 drawings, watercolors and photographs Wols left behind prior to his early death at age 38 from food poisoning.

11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Through January 12. 1515 Sul Ross. For information, call 713-525-9400 or visit the Menil Collection's website. Free.

Satisfy the foodie and art lover in you at the same time at "See Food: Contemporary Photography and the Ways We Eat," currently on exhibit at the Houston Center for Photography. Three years ago, Natalie Zelt, then curatorial assistant for photography for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, noticed an increase of food-related images in the portfolios she was viewing. "A lot of photographers and visual artists were engaging in food issues in a visual realm," Zelt tells us. "There's been a lot of buzz about the slow-food movement...and it was interesting to see the different ways that it had begun to be explored visually. I realized that not only was this happening among visual artists, but it was becoming part of our culture, people documenting their food [via social media]."

Fast-forward to today and Zelt, now in graduate school, has curated "See Food: Contemporary Photography and the Ways We Eat," for the Houston Center for Photography. Local artist Emily Peacock contributes images from her Whiskey Tango series. "'Whiskey tango' are the military [alphabet] for 'w' and 't,' which Peacock uses for 'white trash.' She's starting to be more careful about the food she eats and she's realized that the food she ate as a child was so plasticized and almost toylike," Zelt says. "Her images reflect her looking back at the food she ate as a kid; she's essentially creating these vibrant, toylike images.

Those contrast with the work seen in Mark Menjivar's You Are What You Eat series. He traveled around the country making portraits of people by documenting the interiors of their refrigerators, basically posing the question 'What happens when the body, the person, is replaced by the food that they eat?'"

11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through January 12. 1441 West Alabama. For information, call 713-529-4755 or visit the center's website. Free.

Watercolors can be sparkling little jewels or giants exploding with panache and energy; they can be subtle or bold or blunt; and as a medium, watercolor is demanding and unforgiving -- one false stroke and all is lost. But watercolors often "don't get no respect," as even avid art lovers rush by them to get to the oils. William Reaves Fine Art does its bit to change that perception with its latest show, "The Texas Watercolor Tradition." These works by Texas watercolorists Erik Sprohge, Hunter George, E.M. (Buck) Schiwetz and Harold Phoenix are stunners that will likely stop you in your tracks.

There's a gallery talk from 2 to 4 p.m. on December 14. Regular viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Through December 21. 2313 Brun. For information, call 713-521-7500 or visit the gallery's website. Free.

Find out where the Day of the Dead images of skeletons and skulls come from at ''Calaveras Mexicanas: The Art and Influence of Jose Guadalupe Posada,'' on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Marking the 100th anniversary of Posada's death, the exhibit includes works by the famed Mexican printmaker and those he influenced. ''He had a huge impact,'' says Dena M. Woodall, MFAH associate curator of prints and drawings. ''And not only during his own time period, but you can see how his work has influenced contemporary artists. I was going down the street the other day and on the side of a food truck, I saw a calavera that was very reminiscent of Posada. A lot of the imagery that Posada created has been used for Day of the Dead. I think people will be surprised at the images [in the exhibit] that will be familiar to them. I think people will say, 'Oh, that's where all of this comes from.' We're so familiar with it that we've forgotten that it had a source, that it came from somewhere. That somewhere is Posada.''

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Through December 15. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit the museum's website. Free to $13.

In a related exhibit, "Elvira Sarmiento: Alludere Posada" contemporary Mexican artist Elvira Sarmiento comments on society's fear of new technology, as well as its thirst for sensationalistic news, in the exhibit. Sarmiento alludes to Posada's work in her new creations, reflecting the themes he often explored. (Posada's work is the focus of the exhibit "Calaveras Mexicanas: The Art and Influence of José Guadalupe Posada," currently at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth.) A first-prize winner at the 15th National Print Competition held at the Posada Museum in Mexico, Sarmiento created three series of prints for "Alludere Posada": "Unusual Stories," "Tremendous Revelations" and "Now That It Is in Vogue to Crown Just Anyone." Keelin Burrows, curator for the Museum of Printing History, which is hosting the show, worked closely with Sarmiento during the past year as the printmaker developed the three series. Burrows eventually chose 26 works from the 30 that Sarmiento created. "I took a sampling of each of the series," says Burrows, "taking what I thought were the strongest pieces that made a narrative tied to the narrative that she was already trying to convey in her work."

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Through February 1. 1324 West Clay. For information, call 713-522-4652 or visit the museum's website. Free.

Randy Tibbits and Nancy Ford contributed to this post.

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