Capsule Art Reviews: "Being: Tobiah Mundt," "If We Only Knew Now What They Knew Then," "Kaneem Smith," "Math of the Afterward," "The Paper Runway"

"Being: Tobiah Mundt" Tobiah Mundt creates tiny felted wool creatures that are one part cuddly stuffed animal and three parts creepy. Balls of the fuzzy white wool seem comforting until you notice the toothy mouths embedded in them. Opaque black or luminous red glass eyes peer out from chubby faces. Blobby bodies, missing or unnaturally elongated limbs and horns work to blend the cute with the ominous. It's a nice little show in Lawndale's smaller downstairs gallery, but it could stand some editing. The artist displays so many of her little creatures that the gallery feels like a store. Mundt, an architect by training, refers to herself as a "self-taught" artist in her bio and seems to come out of a craft sensibility. But her work has tremendous "contemporary art" potential. Mundt's figures would be perfect inhabitants for an installation environment. By focusing less on making a collection of objects and focusing more on what she wants to say with them, Mundt could turn out some even more amazing work. Through September 25. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — KK

"If We Only Knew Now What They Knew Then" Doilies meet fringe in "If We Only Knew Now What They Knew Then" at the Houston Arts Alliance's space 125gallery. The show pairs Individual Artist Fellowship recipients Melanie Crader and Katy Heinlein. Crader is known for her deadpan "girly" abstractions referencing feminine decorative elements. In this show, she uses her work to build up a narrative about a domestic space. Doily patterns are crisply cut into shiny enameled paper; a drawer excised from a dresser opens to reveal a flocked interior and the word "theft." Katy Heinlein presents swagged and fringed fabric sculptures that extend from and angle out from the wall. In one piece, a wooden frame is slipcovered so precisely, its bold stripes seem to be painted. As always, Heinlein has some great stuff, but if she could double or triple the scale, it would be amazing. Through September 9. 3201 Allen Pkwy., 713-527-9330. — KK

"Kaneem Smith" Kaneem Smith's installation of brown wax bones looks like the spoils of archaeological grave robbing. In Smith's solo show at TSU's University Museum, the cast bones are hung in a line on the wall, as if a researcher is categorizing and labeling them. And in a project located behind the old Jeff Davis hospital, Smith has done a public art piece that relates to this work. She filled grave-like metal ellipses with gravel and placed them over the unmarked African American burial ground behind the building. Although development has encroached into the area, the graves were never relocated. Will some archaeological team of the future excavate, clean, codify and display those remains of mothers, fathers, sons and daughters? Issues of memory, loss and a fascination with the body permeate Smith's work. Her University Museum exhibition is filled with materials like raw cotton, rope and handwoven fabrics, sometimes coated with plastic or rubber to create visceral and highly evocative objects. Through September 26. Texas Southern University, University Museum, Fairchild Building (south wing), 713-313-7011. — KK

"Math of the Afterward" Lawndale Art Center and Austin's Boozefox artist collective are a match made in heaven. Working 12-hour days for a week straight, collective members Mike Phalan, Jules Buck Jones, Scott Eastwood and Drew Liverman — and Lawndale staff and volunteers — constructed the biggest, most wonderfully ridiculous object the main gallery has ever hosted. (And with Lawndale, that really says something.) Math of the Afterward is a giant cardboard head, supposedly a Pre-Khormusan monument" salvaged from the "Chicxulub Crater" in the Gulf of Mexico. The head almost fills the entire 2,400-square-foot, 16-foot-high gallery. You enter it through a ramp leading into its mouth (Day-Glo orange letters warn you to "Enter at your own risk.") Two TVs screen psychedelic footage, creating the head's roiling eyes. Inside, among other things, the structure has an observation deck, walkways, a giant turning screw, fog machines and seating areas. This kind of epic, go-for-broke, patently unsaleable, riotous group effort was the hallmark of Early Lawndale. It's great to see it continuing at 21st-century Lawndale. Through September 25. 4912 Main, 713-528-5858. — KK

"The Paper Runway" Making clothes out of paper is the definition of counterintuitive, but it was big for a brief period of the mid-1960s, considered avant-garde and futuristically practical. This show at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft features an abundance of paper fashion by contemporary creators as well as a few of those period pieces. Organized by the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the exhibition has a lengthy, international list of curators. But that may be the cause of its problems — it's in dire need of editing. Let's just say that some of them have significantly better taste than others. One of the standouts is a great A-line paper dress, produced by the Mars Manufacturing company of Asheville, North Carolina, that might have been white but now has the hue of old newspapers. It has a keyhole neck with black string tie and a black-and-gray pattern of bold baroque swirls and florals. The manufacturer ingeniously had the "fabric" printed with patterns by a gift-wrap manufacturer. The piece has a wonderful label that instructs you not to wash it or dry-clean it. There's another great 1960s dress by Hallmark with a cheery pink-and-green floral print and the de rigueur A-line style. Unfortunately, this show is as badly hung as it is overcrowded, and right smack in the middle of these two period dresses is a contemporary contribution that seems like it's supposed to be wearable as well. A long, boxy shift that would look like hell on and would doubtless rip when you walked, it's made out of "marbleized" coffee filters applied like fish scales. Placed between the two crisp A-lines, the dress looks like an ugly stepsister. The show's absolute standout is Nancy VanDevender's Ruffled Tattoo Jacket, a long, sweeping, belted wrap coat of what looks to be vinyl-coated paper. It's digitally printed with a funky pattern of drawn and photographed ruffles. The sleeves and edges are cut to follow the ruffles' outlines. It's hip, witty, modern, well-designed and dramatic. Through September 4. 4848 Main, 713-529-4848. — KK

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer