Capsule Reviews

removed Joy Episalla's removed (2000-2002) is one of the worst examples of conceptual art in recent -- and long-term -- memory. I'm betting Episalla was one of those kids with overly supportive parents who convinced her that anything she did was fascinating to others. Using three separate videos, projected wall-size, Episalla tells a story about her mother's couch -- in an hour and a half of total video. In the center video, she talks to her mother about the couch, one of a pair Episalla tried to sell on eBay. One sold, the other didn't, so she contacted the runners-up and asked them to make an offer on the unsold couch. The woman who wanted it planned to use the fabric to make teddy bears. Episalla's mother, naturally, thinks this is ridiculous. She seems like a nice, fun woman and provides the video's only appeal, but she is far more entertained by her daughter than anyone else is going to be. Episalla goes on to explain that she's going to remove the fabric from the couch and send it to the woman. You keep standing and watching the nearly 30-minute video because you think that can't be the whole premise of this piece. The couch has to have other significance -- maybe someone died on it? Maybe someone was conceived on it? But no, that's the whole story, aside from the fact that the teddy-bear woman later decides the fabric isn't right when she's sent a sample. Episalla tells her mother she'll make her own teddy bears -- she's just that wacky. Side videos show Episalla, clad in arty black, posing on the couch and on the couch's stripped frame. She's sporting what look like white-girl dreads -- the better to shock her mother. The videos show her stripping the fabric and sawing the couch apart. There is no point to any of this and no real irony or self-deprecating humor about trying to mine a not-overly-interesting story for an entire video installation. It's not often that art pisses me off, but with removed, I walked away mad as hell that Episalla had stolen time from my life for this overly produced piece of narcissism. The installation should be titled See Mommy, Aren't I Clever?. What the hell was this artist thinking? removed is a part of "Coming Home: Domestic Sites of Love and Loss," which runs through December 18 at the Houston Center for Photography, 1441 W. Alabama, 713-529-4755.

"Round 23" For the latest round of installations at Project Row Houses, Michael Golden has hung hundreds (maybe thousands) of keys inside one row house, covering an entire wall with these multicolored bits of metal. More keys dangle from other walls, placed there by visitors who have written their hopes and secrets on tags attached to them. The visual effect is appealing enough, but the accompanying literature drips more cheese than a plate of soggy nachos. In his space, artist Jimmy Kuehnle has set up 30 televisions, all stacked up and strewn about at odd angles. Tiny cameras are placed around the house, filming visitors and feeding the TVs. The trick is that the televisions are set up so you can never see yourself; every time you get within view of a monitor, you've just walked out of range of its corresponding camera. The installation is clever and does make a statement about how we're monitored all the time without knowing it, but it's pretty straightforward; there's little room for nuance in the confines of this house. Then there's Kaneem Smith's installation, which deals with the unknown in a palpable way. She has covered the floor of her house in dirt and gravel, and from the ceiling hangs what looks like a large curtain of burlap. But as you walk around the curtain, trying to see what's on the other side, you end up right back where you started; it's a closed loop, a clever trick. And it's easily the most interesting installation in this round. Through February 28. 2500 Holman, 713-526-7662.

"Visual Language" "Visual Language" at Mackey Gallery includes work by Ronald Moran. Moran coats things with sheets of fluffy-white polyester batting. He then creates life-size narrative compositions out of his quotidian objects -- there's a chair with a belt draped over it, an ironing board and iron, a school desk. The results are hazy and otherworldly, like furniture made from white clouds, a Hollywood set for heaven. At Mackey, he's built little corner backdrops for the objects that unfortunately stop the illusion short; the construction isn't seamless. He's apparently done entire rooms for other projects, and a larger space would create a more convincing environment here. Moran's photographs of his sets work best, creating contained, illusory images. But his paintings of the fuzzy objects are one too many variations on the same theme. They just aren't that well painted, and they aren't nearly as successful as the photographs or the compositions themselves. Through December 31. 5111 Center, 713-850-8527.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer
Keith Plocek
Contact: Keith Plocek