Capsule Reviews

"H J Bott: Raising the Line" Artist Harvey Bott is like some mad math professor -- he's obsessed with geometry. His previous show at Sicardi Gallery featured masking-tape drawings from the '50s; it revealed a young artist's fascination with dividing space with line and looked like an earlier and better version of Frank Stella. "H J Bott: Raising the Line" is an installment of the artist's more recent geometric musings. Among the works is a planning drawing for his installation Fluid Architecture, a chamber that used the ridiculously low-tech materials of string and black light to create shapes in space. Another drawing, DoV Master Multiplicans (1972-76), graphs out a curved and angled shape; four of them fit perfectly together to make a square. Meanwhile, some of the graphically strongest works, like Footnote Retrospective (2005), take the ideas of his '50s works and render them three-dimensional using strips of pale wood subtly delineated with India ink. Who knew math could be so attractive? Through October 7 at Sicardi Gallery, 2246 Richmond, 713-529-1313.

"Joe Mancuso" Joe Mancuso's paintings at Barbara Davis Gallery have gone all floral -- and that's a surprisingly good thing. Mancuso's trademark painting style uses solid sections of matte color painted thickly and then sanded down. It lends itself incredibly well to the large-scale, high-contrast floral images Mancuso has selected. The newspaper the artist often has used to underlay his images is gone, and these new paintings have a graphic punch and uncharacteristically high contrast and vivid colors. There's stark black and white, but there's also hot pink and black as well as reds and purples. Mancuso has come up with a juicy new body of work. Through October 7. 4411 Montrose, 713-520-9200.

"Singular Multiples: The Peter Blum Edition Archive, 1980 -- 1994" In 1980, art critic, art dealer and filmmaker Peter Blum began publishing prints from a broad range of contemporary artists with the objective of creating what he considered "exhibitions in boxes." In 1996, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston acquired all of the prints and books published by the Peter Blum Edition from 1981 to June 1994. The Edition threw in all the related materials they owned -- preliminary drawings, printing plates and proofs -- to add a behind-the-scenes look at the finished products. This year's exhibition has presented the entire collection, 44 projects by 23 artists in three staggered exhibitions. The largest and most interesting is the third show, which occupies the entire 25,000 square feet of the Upper Brown Pavilion. For one project on view, Blum set artist James Turrell up with master printer Peter Kneubhler to create a series of aquatint etchings, First Light (1989-90), which depicts various geometric shapes that seem to be divined from white light. They appear to float in darkened rooms, their aquatint so finely done that it mimics even the subtle alterations of light found in Turrell's installations. (The "floating" bridge in the tunnel connecting the MFAH's Beck Building and Law Building is a Turrell work.) The Turrell etchings have amazingly dense areas of black with beautifully subtle areas of faint light. In the past, prints have often been seen as just a way to create multiple -- and cheaper -- versions of an artist's work. Blum encouraged artists to express themselves in what was often a new medium for them and paired them with printmakers who could pull their visions off. In doing so, he facilitated some amazing work. Through October 15 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300.

"The Things I See" This exhibition showcases Floyd Newsum's works on paper. Newsum creates dynamic, dense compositions by mixing painted elements with collaged fragments which run the gamut from an image of a black Madonna to a torn orange juice carton to an old Christmas ornament. In his paintings, Newsum flattens landscape into pattern and transforms things like fish, ladders, snakes and houses into repeating symbols. Packing this much into a painting and throwing in found objects can sometimes result in a crowded, grubby aesthetic, but Newsum's work manages to feel clean and effortless. His colors are bright and clear, and his painted images and collaged elements are beautifully balanced. Though October 14 at Joan Wich & Co. Gallery, 4411 Montrose Blvd., 713-526-1551.

"Witnesses to a Surrealist Vision" A 1950s Hopi Kachina doll based on Mickey Mouse, a coconut seed that looks like a butt, and a creepy-looking 18th- or 19th-century "Wildman" leather suit studded with leather spikes from the dark recesses of Germany or Switzerland are among the 133 objects coexisting in the intimate space of "Witnesses to a Surrealist Vision," an ongoing show at the Menil Collection. All of the objects in this exhibition were either owned by the surrealists or are similar to those that they collected, according to the exhibition text. And the 130 remaining objects are all equally weird. Tucked into a small darkly lit room in the back of the Menil's permanent surrealist exhibition, "Witnesses" is a treasure trove of amazing, eclectic objects. It re-creates the idea of the Wunderkammer ("room of wonders"), a cabinet of curiosities -- natural and unnatural, real and fake. It's a wonderful insight into the surrealist vision, as well as a provocative juxtaposition of objects from all over the world, with an emphasis on works from Africa and Oceania. The tiny space is one of the jewels of the Menil Collection, but one you might forget about in the midst of all its temporary exhibitions. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400.

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer