Capsule Reviews

"Bringing Shadows to Light: Contemporary Argentine Photography" Addressing subjects as diverse as war, the tango and the country's current economic crisis, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston presents a good small survey of contemporary Argentine photography. There are pictures of a man's crude drawings recording the torture he witnessed during the Dirty War (1976--1983). Another image from the period shows a man seated numbly beneath a tree, his eyes, nose and jaw completely covered with bandages. The woman next to him cries out to someone unknown. Meanwhile, a series of black-and-white tango images with a film-noir aesthetic present a moodily romantic vision of the country. An elderly tango master dances with a beautiful young woman; a blurred silver tray of sparkling cocktails balances on a waiter's arm. Other images in lurid color present a harsh pop/political edge, with young Argentines wearing plastic masks of Fidel Castro and the Statue of Liberty. The show gives viewers an interesting range of artists and their takes on their country, its history and culture. Through July 30. 5601 Main, 713-639-7300.

"Drawing Inside/Out" This sprawling drawing show is housed way up on Lawndale's third floor. Curated by Michelle White, Lawndale programming committee member and curatorial assistant at the Menil Collection, the show features an assortment of artists with varied approaches to drawing. Joey Fauerso presents a witty DVD, Four Ways to Disappear (2006), in which four drawings of a shirtless, big-gutted guy in jeans are slowly smeared out and erased. Next to it are Monica Vidal's wonderfully, obsessively rendered gouache drawings of imagined structures and landscapes. Across the room, David Ubias's Sea Anemone Sees an Enemy (2006) has a looser approach to the surreal. In a really funny gesture for a group show, he made himself a big red second-place ribbon and attached it to his drawing. Then there are Wesley Heiss's anal-retentive mechanical-pencil drawings on Mylar -- they exactly and absurdly detail the interior and exterior of conjoined aircraft. This show is a well-chosen grab bag that revives the come-one-come-all spirit of the old Lawndale. Through July 1 at Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, 713-528-5858.

"Popunation: New Work by David Chien" David Chien's installation at the Art League Houston is filled with bright cartoon cutouts of people -- and dogs. The larger-than-life figures depict a guy in a suit walking his dog, a man holding a bunch of birds from strings like balloons, and another guy in a shirt and tie standing with his dog and holding a can of spray paint, apparently for tagging the wall with dog-print wallpaper. The figures are stylized and hard-edged, and the dogs have a strong Keith Haring look to them. Chien also has included an amusing low-tech video game along the lines of Tetris. Projected on the wall, it features round leaves falling from a tree that are to be stacked. The problem is Chien keeps trying to imbue the figures with meaning. He has a gallery text that explains each piece; a circle of cutout dogs around the campfire is to "portray the diversity of people who caravanned cross country to settle the old west." Reading through, you see he's aiming for some broad cultural commentary, but none of his explanations makes sense individually or collectively. Nevertheless, while the show is conceptually lacking, it holds together stylistically. Everything is executed in bright, flat color. Chien has a nice design sense. He just needs to quit trying make the work more than it is and instead focus on the visual. Through June 23. 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530.

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer