Capsule Art Reviews: "Carlos Cruz-Diez: Crosswalk", "Katy Heinlein: Project Space," "Sasha Pierce: New Paintings" and "John Sparagana: The Crisis Professionals", "Reduced Visibility", "Second Seating"

"Carlos Cruz-Diez: Crosswalk" You only have to drive past the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to see some of the hippest public art in Houston. The 86-year-old Carlos Cruz-Diez, a pioneer of optically kinetic art, has created an amazing street installation for the MFAH's crosswalks along Bissonnet/Binz Street. Cruz-Diez's vibrant pattern of horizontal and diagonal lines overlays Houston's potholed and eroded asphalt streets with dynamic art. It makes you wonder why we don't do this to all of our crosswalks. The artist has created street installations before, but this is his first in the United States. The Venezuelan artist's work was one of the standouts in the MFAH's landmark survey of Latin American avant-garde art, "Inverted Utopias," and is included in the current MFAH exhibition "North Looks South," so you might want to park the car and head inside. Plus, they've got great air conditioning. Through December 31. 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300. — KK

"Katy Heinlein: Project Space," "Sasha Pierce: New Paintings" and "John Sparagana: The Crisis Professionals" CTRL Gallery has three, count 'em, three great shows at once. Sasha Pierce's paintings are amazing. At first, they seem like they're made from pieces of nubby, striped upholstery fabric cut and glued to the canvas at oblique angles. But looking very, very closely, you realize the fabric "threads" are skeins of paint, almost microscopically extruded from plastic bags like icing and done so precisely they can be mistaken for machine weaving. Wow. Meanwhile, John Sparagana's collages need their own microscope. Working from issues of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Sparagana takes multiple copies of the same article and wears down the surfaces, making them pliable like fabric. He then cuts them into impossibly narrow strips, collaging them all together to create enlarged but indistinct versions of the original articles. The results are hazy and ghostlike, like a memory you can't quite place. In the project room, Katy Heinlein presents two new fabric-based sculptures. Heinlein doesn't stuff fabric — she drapes it, stretches it or suspends it. Her work references the ties, gathers, panels and hems of fashion. For Bow-bow (2009), a long, pink band extends through an arc of brown polyester jersey, gathering the fabric up in what looks like a wedgie. Heinlein's work is moving in an interesting new direction, with her sculptures becoming less contained and expanding out from themselves. Through October 31. 3907 Main, 713-523-2875. — KK

"Reduced Visibility" Political art is famously difficult to pull off. Too much politics and you can end up with a one-dimensional propaganda poster; too little, and the whole point is lost. "Reduced Visibility" at Glassell, curated by Core Program Critical Studies Resident Kurt Mueller, features largely abstract artworks that attempt to walk that fine line. Work by the late Houston artist Mark Lombardi is the best thing in the show. Lombardi masterfully integrated politics and art, channeling his passion for research, conspiracy theories/facts and deep sense of moral outrage into elegant drawings that diagram the scandals and conspiracies of his day. (Lombardi's 2000 suicide has itself been the subject of conspiracy theorists.) In fine pencil lines, Lombardi neatly wrote names inside circular shapes linked by dotted lines, arrows and the like. There is no explicit narrative to overwhelm the visual. Instead, you follow the directions of Lombardi's marks (sometimes annotated with dollar amounts) as you read the names of banks, businessmen, political figures, bureaucrats and strongmen, pondering their less than six degrees of separation. Lombardi was good — so good that, according to NPR, just a few weeks after September 11, an FBI agent called the Whitney and asked to see a drawing by Lombardi illustrating "the links between global finance and international terrorism." One can only imagine the work he would have made had he been around for Bush II. Through November 15. Glassell School of Art, 5101 Montrose Blvd, 713-639-7500. — KK

"Second Seating" While the premise of the warehouse show "Second Seating" is more than just a little convoluted, there is something really appealing about its over-the-top, collaborative and decidedly baroque installations. Billed as offering an "intriguing look at Houston's historic East End through the lens of its industry," the exhibition presents a collection of overflowing dining tables topped by extravagantly surreal chandeliers. A surprisingly stunning, luminous concoction of filigreed bleach bottles hangs from the ceiling. It's lit from within and comes complete with disco ball. Assembled by exhibition organizer Mary Margaret Hansen, the bottles were cut by artist June Woest's students at Houston Community College Southwest. Meanwhile, the chandelier hanging over a decadent table spilling oyster shells was created by Hansen and Gonzo247, who spray-painted a big lamp shade with watery imagery. Elsewhere, beautifully crafted, piñata-style parrots by Victor James Rodriguez soar overhead, an homage to the feral parrots of the East End. There's plenty of work in the show that isn't especially successful, but the sheer exuberant bounty of the stuff makes it a glorious visual wallow — don't try to make sense of it, just enjoy it. While the show's elaborate logo may make it look like some kind of a charity fundraiser, the exhibition is supported by a 2009 project grant Hansen received from The Idea Fund. Through November 1. 22 North Chenevert, 832-622-5453. — KK

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer