Capsule Reviews

"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.

"Gego, Between Transparency and the Invisible" Gego was the Venezuelan avant-garde artist formerly known as Gertrud Goldschmidt. Sculptures, drawings, prints and collages by the artist are on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The woman who would become a major figure of the Latin American avant-garde was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1912. After the Kristallnacht in 1938, she escaped to Caracas. In looking at her work, you can see evidence of Gego's Germanic training in architecture, engineering and drafting. Line is the dominant element in her art. But the lines she uses warp and subvert notions of geometric and mechanical precision, thwarting and relaxing them. For an untitled 1970 work, Gego used a ruler to draw an anal-retentive grid of angled lines. But then she disrupted the crisp regularity of the diamond-shaped cells of the grid. Cell by cell, she bisected each one with a tentative, hand-drawn line. In a similar untitled 1966 work, she covered a page with two ruled grids of lines. They look like they should meet in the center of the page, but they're intentionally off. With a careful, purposeful line, Gego carefully traced around where the lines should meet. In these drawings, she's setting up an expectation of precision and then subtly and delicately undermining it. Gego mastered the skills and precision demanded by her fields of study but comfortably discounted them, like a classically trained musician who strays and improvises. In her series "Drawings Without Paper," Gego used wire to break free from the page. Using random scraps like old coat hangers, she created whimsical drawings in space. In her later years, Gego was afflicted with arthritis and could no longer work with wire. She turned instead to paper, creating tejeduras by cutting strips from old catalogs and magazines and weaving them together in loose grids. Her pursuit of line continued unabated. Through September 25. 5601 Main, 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.

"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