Capsule Art Reviews: December 4, 2014

"The Bruce High Quality Foundation: Isles of the Dead" Arnold Bocklin's 1880 painting Isle of the Dead shows a white-shrouded figure being rowed to an island. Inevitably, it is perceived as Charon on the River Styx carrying souls to the afterlife. Bocklin created five variations between 1880 and 1886, and the image has become iconoclastic, even fabled, and has influenced many distinguished artists. The enterprising Bruce High Quality Foundation ingeniously restaged the painting in 2008 by having two of its members in a dinghy, one standing, in a white shroud, photographed as the dinghy moves toward the New York City skyline. The exhibition at the McClain Gallery shows a number of silk-screen images of Bocklin's painting, as well as silk-screen images of the Bruce High Quality version. Each one has a dramatically different color scheme, from festive to somber. I preferred Bocklin's image, and especially savored silk screen #13, which had a sky much like that of the opening fireworks ceremonies of the Olympics in China. Another of Bocklin's images (#4) added pink and green to the sky and generated a festive look, suggesting that this particular soul being ferried might get a favorable verdict in being judged. Another image (#3) had a very heavy purple sky, not really menacing or foreboding, largely charmless, but I admired the simpler, mystical black-and-white version (#2). The Bruce High Quality image has the boat closer to shore, as though the camera had moved in for a close-up. One silk screen (#11) added compositional structures but, despite this, retained an air of majesty. And I liked #12, with two vertical panels added, one dark teal, the other deep violet. Through December 6. 2242 Richmond, 713-520-9988, mcclaingallery.com — JJT

"Buildering: Misbehaving the City" "Buildering" describes overt acts of artistic expression with elements of rebellion against the establishment. It requires an unsanctioned, "in-your-face" attitude, and, more important, it's great fun. There are striking sculptures, exciting videos and photographs of some of the coups that mischievous practitioners have pulled off in the past. One such sculpture is El Barrio, consisting of a number of individual cardboard structures, like boxes, with openings for windows and doors, piled together. The effect is to reference a favela in Rio de Janeiro, or Habitat 67, the model community and housing complex created by Moshe Safdie for Montreal's Expo 1967. El Barrio was created by "Los Carpinteros," the name used by two Cuban artists who collaborate. Brasil, by Hector Zamora, shows an ordinary bicycle, but instead of a pedaler, the seat and indeed the entire bike are loaded with what seem to be terra-cotta bricks with see-through openings. The effect is of massive overload, suggesting industry and development occurring at the expense of the individual, and yet in itself providing an amusing and original sculpture that entertains through its unexpected uniqueness. I especially enjoyed two videos by Sebastian Stumpf in which he demonstrates possibly life-threatening activities. Underground Garage is a video of storefronts and garages, until a garage door starts to come down. At the last possible moment, with split-second timing, Stumpf sprints and throws himself underneath the closing garage door. The effect is exciting. Stumpf tops himself with Bridges, a video of him leaping off urban bridges into a river. This is dangerous and could be disastrous; I found it difficult to watch, though fascinating. Through December 6. Blaffer Art Museum, The University of Houston, 120 Fine Arts Building, 4173 Elgin, 713-743-9521, blafferartmuseum.org. — JJT

"Carole A. Feuerman Solo Exhibition" Hyperrealist art is intended to simulate reality so precisely that the art can easily be mistaken for the real thing, and prime examples are on view at the intimate Octavia Art Gallery. Christina is a life-size sculpture, painted resin, of an attractive, fit woman in a discreet one-piece white bathing suit with orange and yellow designs, and a helmet-style bathing cap. She is turning her face to the sun, which is adroitly simulated by gallery lighting. She wears silver strap-on open shoes with high heels. A few hairs are escaping from the bathing cap. So vivid is the impersonation that a viewer might imagine he had seen her at a pool. Miniature Balance is not life-size, though so real is the illusion that the brain automatically enlarges it. It shows a full-breasted woman in the yoga lotus position, clad in a pale-blue two-piece bikini. Her eyes are closed, her fingers arched gracefully, and there is a realistic wrinkle in the rear of the bathing suit. Butterfly Capri seems life-size, though it portrays just the torso and head. There is a hint of humor — her right hand is lifting the bottom edge of her bathing suit, perhaps because it was binding, or perhaps as an enticement. She is wearing a reflective bathing cap and a one-piece bathing suit. Her eyes are closed, but the work is filled with energy. I loved Miniature Serena, in which a woman wearing a glistening bathing cap clings gently to an inflated rubber inner tube, her eyes closed. She has graceful hands and well-cared-for nails, and seems perfectly at rest, savoring a quiet moment in a vacation that is going well. Through December 5. 3637 West Alabama, Suite 120, 713-877-1810, octaviaartgallery.com. — JJT

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Randy Tibbits is an independent art writer and curator, specializing in the art history of Houston. He is a member of the Board of Directors of CASETA: Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art and the coordinator of HETAG: Houston Earlier Texas Art Group. He writes art exhibition reviews for Houston Press from time to time.