Capsule Reviews

"The Big Show" Group shows are almost always problematic -- uneven, schizophrenic, overloaded with information -- and Lawndale Art Center's annual open-call, juried exhibition never seems to escape these peccadilloes. With no frame of reference besides one or two pieces by each artist on the wall, it's just too easy to dismiss most of the works as derivative or sophomoric. But this year's show does have some standouts. Christy Ortiz's two untitled works (2005 and 2006) are full of overlapping meaning, while James A. Glassman's He Doesn't Love You (2006) is a cheeky take on standard tests for color blindness. Two photographic prints (both 2005) by Gabriella Nissen are bright, clean and lovely, and Matthew Juarez's Thugz-N-Lattez (2006) is a humorous depiction of gangstas repping Starbucks. It would be nice to see what else these folks are producing, but, alas, that's all we get. Given its scope, "The Big Show" always seems like more of an opportunity for its contributors than for its viewers, and it's definitely a success in the sense that it encourages emerging artists to keep on emerging. Perhaps gallerygoers will get their turn down the road when some of these artists start poking their heads above the crowd. Through August 25. 4912 Main, 713-528-5858.

"Daniel Kayne: Urban-Mix" Walking into Deborah Colton Gallery, one is immediately struck by Daniel Kayne's large mixed-media prints, some of which resemble the cover art for New Order's Brotherhood album. The up-close, grainy photos of scraped and textured metal begin to take on meaning when juxtaposed with Kayne's postcard-size snapshots of graffiti art in Houston, New York and abroad. Two entire walls of prints make up Kayne's document to the unknown artist, and it's the display that makes this collection of images impressive; on their own, they'd make interesting, artsy postcards. Kayne is an artist to watch. "Urban-Mix" reveals his keen eye for documenting urban nature, especially things that become part of the landscape while nobody is watching. Through August 31. 2500 Summer, 713-864-2364.

"Houston Folk: African American Self-Taught Artists" Right now, the self-taught artist is hot subject matter for galleries and museums. Recently, the MFAH staged its big-deal exhibition of self-taught juggernaut Jean-Michel Basquiat, and its current Gee's Bend quilt exhibit continues the trend. Last year, the Menil showcased the work of folk modernists Bill Traylor and William Edmonson. Houston is a natural champion for this horribly underrated work: So much of it exists here. In "Houston Folk," Texas Southern University's University Museum highlights ten black artists from this area, and the results are impressive. While each artist contributes charming work, much of which documents and renders the black experience, two artists stand out. Phyllis Harris's quilts run the gamut from a tribal African scene to a portrait of Buffalo Soldiers to one called Larry's Travel, a delightful amalgamation of tourist T-shirts from places like Taos, Aspen and Lake Tahoe to Texas curiosities like Luckenbach and Jefferson. There's even a shirt from Montrose's own Black Labrador Pub. Steven Murray's collages and sculpture really hit the mark. His tribal-influenced chess pieces dazzle, and his 28 Ships, a collection of ships and tiny figures in bottles, which chronicles the slave trade, alone is worth the visit. Through September 10. 3100 Cleburne, 713-313-7120.

"Light My Fire" Each summer Rice Gallery shuts down, but it installs a big artwork in its window to appease the summer students, visitors and faculty. "Light My Fire" is artist Lisa Hoke's contribution to the tradition. Known for her use of cheap, everyday materials -- plastic cups, neon drinking straws, rubber bands -- to produce bombastic, color-soaked installations, Hoke turned the gallery's 16- by 44-foot window wall into a wispy, abstract stained-glass panel using colored paper and hot glue. The painstaking process involved curling 100,000 strips of heavy paper and arranging them into mirror-image panels, which were attached to both sides of the window wall. The effect is mesmerizing. It's essential to view the piece from both sides of the window. From outside, "Light My Fire" burns with hot pink, orange and red, subdued by cool blue patches. It has texture; it's a trippy wall of light. From inside, the piece becomes fencelike, but made from curly filaments instead of wrought iron. It also fills the viewer's field of vision, evoking cinema -- the aquarium world of people and nature outside, seen through the installation, flickers like film. "Light My Fire" is a worthwhile 15-minute diversion for most. The chemically enhanced will want to assign a designated gallerygoer to drag them away. Through August 31. Rice University, 6100 Main, 713-348-6069.

"Teresa O'Connor: A Ghost Story, Part 1" Through video stations set up throughout her two-room installation at Deborah Colton Gallery, Teresa O'Connor introduces us to two characters: a woman called The Lounge Act and a man referred to as The Forty Something Male Singer. We're led to believe these two are in a relationship, though we're supposed to plug in the details. But then again, maybe they haven't even met yet. O'Connor's meticulous placing of vintage furniture, clothing, bric-a-brac and up-to-date technology doesn't naturally suggest that anything has necessarily "happened." There are wonderful touches everywhere. A glass and a coffee cup contain sticky residue of the liquids they once held. Abstract video of a crow repeats on screens throughout the space. A pink heart-shaped tray containing what look like half-eaten chocolates lies next to an ashtray choked with gold-tipped butts. A wall-mounted flat-screen TV displays photographs of the couple in question. An eerie tone fills the room, too, like an insistent droning, which is both repellent and oddly narcotic -- like a David Lynch film. In fact, experiencing O'Connor's bizarre realm must be what it's like to be in a Lynch movie, not as a performer or a crew member, but actually in the movie. Through August 31. 2500 Summer, 713-864-2364.

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Keith Plocek
Contact: Keith Plocek
Troy Schulze
Contact: Troy Schulze