Capsule Art Reviews: "Perspectives 167: Jason Villegas", "Second Seating"

"Perspectives 167: Jason Villegas" Jason Villegas isn't old enough to remember the pinnacle of polo shirt popularity, but like some monomaniacal archeologist, he has excavated myriad examples from thrift shops. The results are on view in this show, organized by curator Valerie Cassel Oliver at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Cast-off clothing, polo and otherwise, is the artist's material of choice. Villegas deftly cuts, stuffs and glues it to make vividly colored collages and sculptures. And he has used the animal appliqués from polo shirts to create what amounts to a goofy pantheon of animal gods, an oblique allusion to the Asian sweatshop labor used to manufacture most clothing. In a charmingly quirky series of framed portraits, Villegas depicts himself as various polo mascots. For Self Portrait as Lacoste Brand (2009), Villegas glued a pink-and-white striped polo shirt with a Lacoste alligator onto a board. A smiling green alligator head sticks out of the collar, created by cutting and collaging fabric from old clothes. My favorite is Self Portrait as LeTigre Brand (2009), in which Villegas renders himself as a tiger in a pale blue cotton knit with bulging, bloodshot eyes created from a polyester print fabric. Villegas, who's from Houston, has been fixated on these logos for years, but his beloved polo shirts, knockoffs and all, are now being sold to twentysomething hipsters on vintage clothing Web sites. It'll make the thrifting harder, or at least slightly pricier. But what happens to your work when your quirky little obsession suddenly becomes fashionable? In any case, it's good Villegas has a solid museum show under his belt. Through November 1. 5216 Montrose Blvd., 713-284-8250. — 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