Capsule Reviews

"Amy Arbus: Rites and Rituals" This show presents work by Amy Arbus, the daughter of legendary photographer Diane Arbus. Diane is a tough act for any photographer to follow, and it has to be even tougher if you're her daughter. But Amy has taken up the challenge, and she's been working as a professional photographer for 22 years. The way she hones in on people's strangeness in her photos reminds you of her mother's work, but where Diane Arbus's photographs were almost exclusively black-and-white, most of her daughter's works on view at Watermark Fine Art Photographs and Books are in bright, lurid color. There's an interesting series of girls and young women in elaborate dance costumes and excessive makeup. In one, a skinny girl from an Irish dance competition with a paper crown and an unearthly mass of tight reddish ringlets stares sullenly at the camera. All in all, there are some nice images here, but it's incredibly difficult to look at them objectively and independently, free from the shadow of Diane Arbus. Through September 1. 3503 Lake, 713-528-8686.

"From Myth to Life: Images of Women from the Classical World" The West has long lionized Greek civilization, but most Greek women probably wouldn't have agreed with the way their society has been idealized and romanticized over the centuries. Completely excluded from public life, Greek women rarely were allowed to leave the confines of their homes. "From Myth to Life: Images of Women from the Classical World" presents artifacts from the Celia and Walter Gilbert Collection that depict or were created for women. A red-figured calyx krater shows a scene of mythological domestic violence in which Lykourgos, euphemistically described as driven mad by the god of wine, has killed his son and is about to take out his wife. Other objects are more benign, like a slender but ornate gold stickpin topped with a tiny sculpture of Aphrodite and Eros. A tiny terra-cotta mouse possibly used as an infant feeder stands out as a poignant domestic artifact. Through July 31 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300.

"Gordon Terry: Passport to Magonia" Gordon Terry has an interesting approach to materials. He pours out thick skins of acrylic -- often freezing them -- and then swirls in or puddles other colors on top. In previous work, he has adhered pools of acrylic onto glossy acrylic panels. But more recently, he's been stretching these skins over clear acrylic frames. There's something incredibly tactile about these smooth, glossy, rubbery-looking paintings. The results are sort of like woven fabric, because the ground and the image are one in the same. The best stuff in this exhibition is located in New Gallery's back gallery, which is filled with skins of swirling colors that have a lush, psychedelic feeling to them. Terry's work captures pigment in the act of intermingling. Through August 15. 2627 Colquitt, 713-520-7053.

"Juried Membership Exhibition" A "juried membership exhibition" sounds about as exciting as an annual typing-teacher conference. But the Houston Center for Photography's Juried Membership Exhibition has pulled out some interesting work. Houstonian Deborah Bay received the Juror's Choice Award for her moody color photographs of tiny plastic figures in staged scenes. The images are blurred, so you can't quite make out the figures or place the setting. Looking closely at one of the photos, you can pick out something that looks like a computer cord, but the image remains enigmatic. Meanwhile, Sugar Land photographer Jennifer Greenwell gives us a grid of portraits of single-wide trailers. The deadpan shots are taken from the end of the trailer and show the homes in various states of decay and decoration. Bed sheets and tinfoil cover the windows, while aftermarket purple paint jobs and wrought-iron ornamentation cover the exteriors. Through July 24. 1441 West Alabama, 713-529-4755.

"Luis Tomasello" With this exhibition of works, Sicardi Gallery brings yet another little-known Latin American master of avant-garde work to the attention of Houston. Luis Tomasello's body of optically kinetic art is rooted in three-dimensional form. He attaches 3-D, geometric objects to panels that hang on the wall like paintings. The attachments physically alter and activate the picture plane. It's like creating a topographic map of an abstract painting. The artist's fascination lies in the way light strikes these protrusions, changing the appearance of the work. The Sicardi exhibition is dominated by white-on-white works that use the simple materials of wood and paint to create optical effects. When color does appear in the whiteness of the show, it is judiciously and subtly doled out. Tomasello is much more interested in reflections of color than in pigment itself. In works such as Atmosphere Chromoplastique No. 315 (1973), Tomasello paints color on the back sides of polyhedrons anchored to the surface. The viewer hardly ever sees the color, only its reflection on the white surface. Tomasello's art is dominated by his interest in form, pattern and subtle, reflected color. The way light hits his works and creates shadows continually alters their appearance. The decidedly low-tech materials he uses are an intriguing aspect of his work. There's something appealing and down-to-earth about taking a humble, imprecise natural material and trying to create geometric precision out of it. Through August 27. 2246 Richmond, 713-529-1313.

"Printed Art" Kiki Smith's wallpaper is one of the coolest things in this print exhibition, which is filled with heavy hitters. Weeping Willow Wallpaper (2003) features delicately drawn strands of leaves painted a pale watery blue. At $350 a roll, it's ridiculously expensive for wallpaper but pretty damn cheap for art. A tripartite Robert Rauschenberg lithograph is especially interesting, as it presents the Port Arthur-born artist's autobiography through text and symbolic images, including a map of the Texas coast. Fellow Texas artist Vernon Fisher has a great color lithograph, Man Cutting Globe (1995), with a '50s-style image of a father in a white shirt and tie, showing his son how to carve up the planet. There's also a rare Andy Warhol serigraph, Birmingham Race Riot (1964), an unusually political work from the artist. Through July 31 at Devin Borden Hiram Butler Gallery, 4520 Blossom, 713-863-7097.

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer