"David Simpson: Iridescent -- Interference" Seventy-seven-year-old David Simpson has been painting abstractly since the 1950s and was included in the famed 1964 exhibition "Post Painterly Abstraction" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which was organized by Clement Greenberg, the czar of modernism. One wonders what the anti-minimalist Greenberg would have to say about Simpson's work 40 years on, given that it has become decidedly minimal. In this exhibition, Simpson makes minimalist paintings with a lush, iridescent beauty. Using layers of color and interference pigments that have the ability to refract light, Simpson creates paintings that shimmer like fish scales. Their burnished surfaces glow, and their colors shift according to the light in the room and the position of the viewer. A painting that appears lavender will shift to pink or gray. The works are quietly beautiful. No word on what Greenberg is doing in his grave. Through October 30. Gallery Sonja Roesch, 2309 Caroline, 713-659-5424.
"Lester Julian Merriweather: Chopped and Screwed" Lester Julian Merriweather samples pop culture for his drawings, and among his sources are magazines put out from the '50s to the '80s -- publications like Jet, Tan, Life, Time and Ebony. The title of his show is a reference to Houston's own brand of hip-hop -- "screwed," slowed-down songs that are "chopped" and intermingled with themselves. It's not unlike the process Merriweather goes through with his art as he extracts snippets from the media and corporate party lines and processes them through his own stream of consciousness. In his neat pen-and-ink drawings, text and image intermingle. A primly executed image of a disembodied bow tie and an Oscar are accompanied by musings about Halle Berry and Denzel Washington's Academy Awards. A text-heavy work focuses on Marcus Dixon. Another drawing pairs an image of a black man with an altered Brillo box as Merriweather goes post-pop on Andy Warhol. The Brillo box with "rust resister" now reads "Trill" (triple-ill) with "bust resister." In another work, he manipulates the Campbell's soup can. With a fluency in politics, pop culture and art history, Merriweather's work creates multiple entendres. Through October 22 at DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346.
"Reading Between the Lines" Dressed like an engineering geek in a striped tie and a short-sleeved dress shirt with pocket protector, Nate Larson inserts himself into his own photographs as he explores the paranormal. His black-and-white photos include neat lines of text that record his experiments and tales of mysterious signs and events, like the appearance of rocks on his doorstep. The artist addresses our curiosity about the supernatural with the wit and sense of irony that temper his own desire to believe. Also in this group show, Juan Miguel Ramos's work tells a San Antonio urban legend -- that if you stop your car in neutral on the railroad tracks, the ghosts of children who died there will push you to safety -- using bilingual text, photographs and animation. Ramos's approach to images creates a work that feels part Blair Witch Project, part MTV -- in a good way. Victoria Crayhon uses text for her own disconcerting ends by commandeering theater marquees. Her photographs record her interventions, like the one in which "OH GOD" is written on one side and "I LOVE MY LIFE" on the other. In Houston she took a crack at the 4819 Main marquee. Drive by and take a look. Through October 22 at the Houston Center for Photography, 1441 W. Alabama, 713-529-4775.
"The Splendor of Ruins in French Landscape Painting, 1630-1800" If you have a thing for classical ruins and fussy 17th- and 18th-century French painting, this is the show for you. The paintings abound with Greek and Roman architecture in scenic states of decay, but there are some unexpected images in the cavalcade of academic classicism. Biblical scenes seem to have been an excuse for many of the artists to wallow in verdantly overgrown architectural splendor. Pierre-Antoine Patel, also known as Patel the younger, painted Landscape with Classical Ruins and Figures -- the title is self-explanatory. The painting is dominated by crumbled columns and temple ruins lit with a warm, golden light -- you almost miss the tiny figures in the foreground. The exhibition catalog says the work appears to be the Stoning of Stephen from the New Testament. Squint at the tiny figures, and it does seem that one of them is about to brain the other with a rock. (Isn't smashing people in the head with a rock more of an Old Testament thing?) With its bizarre juxtaposition of miniature, macabre figures with lush landscape and romantic ruins, this painting is one of the exhibition's oddball surprises. Through October 16. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300.