Capsule Reviews

"DEAR Camp" "DEAR Camp" is Brian Neal Sensabaugh's campy deer camp. For the installation, Sensabaugh, a gay Houston artist, took elements from his father and brother's deer camp in Arkansas. Going into the woods is, by and large, a macho drunken endeavor. Sure, there's hunting, but there's also male bonding at its most primal -- guns, blood, beer and the crudest of crude humor abounds. Sensabaugh grew up around his family's deer camp, before anyone knew he was gay. For "DEAR Camp," he sardonically painted the trees an elegant white, made pink-and-white covers for the deer rifles, added lace edging to a confederate "The South Will Rise Again" flag and placed little pink-and-white Bambi-and-mom statues around the room. He even absconded with the actual deer camp bar, scrawled with bad jokes about road kill, pussy and gay sex. You can imagine what a comfortable environment that must have been for a gay teen. Sensabaugh undercuts the bar's misogynistic and homophobic humor by adding lace curtains. It's a provocative, pointed installation in which Sensabaugh explores the disjuncture between his childhood roots and his adult identity. Through January 20 at Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main Street, 713-528-5858.

DiverseWorks: J Hill's Sound Installations You can hear the Sonny Liston/Muhammad Ali fight in the bathroom at DiverseWorks. It's part of an ongoing series of sound installations by artist J Hill in the art space's two public bathrooms. Hill dotted the walls and ceiling of the bathroom with speakers, transforming the toilet environment. For the first bathroom, Hill recorded himself at home watching the classic fight. In the background are domestic noises such as water running in the kitchen sink. You could hog the bathroom and listen to the whole match. The second bathroom includes sounds such as a teakettle boiling, birds chirping and, possibly, morning cartoons in the background. Hill is creating a kind of cozy intimacy not generally associated with public toilets as he lets bathroom patrons eavesdrop on his life. His sound installations run through May at DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346.

"Kim Squaglia" Kim Squaglia makes paintings that are so beautifully and sleekly crafted, they feel like design objects. She uses fabulous colors: the palest of sage greens, hot magentas, chocolaty browns, dusty pinks, a 1950's turquoise...Her looping lines, pours of color and carefully delineated biomorphically abstract forms float in and over thick, perfect layers of resin. The resin creates glossy and clear or matte and translucent strata, adding physical and visual depth to the artist's imagery. But the ultimate kicker is that while Squaglia's paintings have the visual and tactile appeal of ultra high-end designer objects, their quirky imagery keeps them firmly in the realm of fine art. Through February 4 at Finesilver Gallery, 3913 Main, 713-524-3733.

"Klee in America" In 1930, Paul Klee's work was included in a major exhibition in Berlin. But just three short years later, he lost his teaching job at the Dsseldorf Art Academy, having been suspended by the new Nazi-appointed director. Klee realized it was time to get the hell out of Dodge -- er, Dsseldorf -- and fled to his native Switzerland. In 1937, the Nazis declared his work to be "Entartete Kunst" [Degenerate Art] and included it in the notorious exhibition by the same name. But as the European market for Klee's work dried up, the American one opened up, since European dealers fleeing the Nazis took Klee's work along with them. Klee's eclectic approach to art was not easily categorized. His work was alternately lumped in with expressionism, surrealism and cubism, but its openness and experimental nature found favor with American collectors. Whether or not you are a Klee fan, you can see how, as the curators of this exhibition at the Menil Collection contend, the artist's work inspired America's abstract expressionist generation. Through January 28. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400.

"The Target Collection of American Photography: A Century in Pictures" This exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston surveys a hundred years of work by American photographers. Three powerful works by three renowned photographers stand out. One of the earliest photos in the show is Kate and Rachel, taken in 1907 by James Van Der Zee of his wife and young daughter. The image is a lovely, sentimental, turn-of-the-century scene, but Van Der Zee's photos are important for another reason, too -- he created some of his era's few photographs of black people by a black photographer. Russell Lee photographed farmers, sharecroppers and migrant workers, illustrating their plight. At first glance, his FSA Clients at Home, Hidalgo County, Texas (1939) looks like a Norman Rockwell cover for The Saturday Evening Post. But as you get a little closer, you see some "what's wrong with this picture?" details. The man's sock has a gaping hole; the wife's hair net is torn; her worn, dirty shoes look like they were taken off a dead hobo. The seemingly straightforward photograph speaks volumes about the sweeping devastation of the Great Depression. Margaret Bourke-White's striking photograph A Blast Furnace Under Construction in Ural Mountains as Part of the First Five-Year Plan, Magneto-Gorsk, USSR (1931) depicts a massive construction project in Magnetogorsk, a city newly made in the remote Ural Mountains for the purpose of mining iron ore and processing steel. We share in the photographer's awe at this massive industrial complex arising from nothing, but with the benefit of hindsight into the atrocities that came with industrialization under Stalin, we see a ghostly afterimage. Through February 25. MFAH's Jones Beck Building, 5601 Main, 713-639-7300.

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer