Capsule Reviews

"Dan McCleary" The title of the painting Man Weighing Himself (2004) by Dan McCleary pretty clearly describes what's going on in the work. A man in white pajamas stands in the doorway of a bathroom, looking down at the dial of a scale between his sock-covered feet. The scene is realistically painted, but with a clean, deadpan simplicity that's as crisp as a starched napkin. McCleary has a fixation with the everyday, and other works in the show depict such banal scenes as people in an office, a guy leaning over a diner counter and someone getting a haircut. McCleary paints from life, constructing his own sets for the scenes he renders. The details of the settings are simplified, with an emphasis on form that imparts a sense of gravitas to the most ordinary of scenes. The show also includes a couple of small forgettable paintings of the flowers-in-vase genre. It is McCleary's figurative work that is fresh and engaging. Through July 9 at Texas Gallery, 2012 Peden, 713-524-1593.

"Escape Pod" At Paul Fleming's show in Barbara Davis Gallery's new Montrose location, you half expect to find astronauts hiding out from HAL. Fleming's sculptures have a '60s futuristic feeling that calls to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey. Fleming has been using Hydrocal (a stronger, less porous version of plaster) and colored resin in his sculptures for several years now. To make the sculptures, he casts forms from found objects -- food containers and packing materials -- and then pours resin on top of or into the white cast form, creating glossy pools of color. The chalky white Hydrocal and shiny, translucent resin create a lush contrast. Fleming's been grouping his works in sizable numbers and, as a result, is really starting to hit his stride. Individual components that previously weren't compelling enough to hold the viewer's interest start to have a really spectacular effect together. An example of this is Clack III (2005), a grid of 21 forms shaped like giant gold bars, probably cast in something like a wallpaper tray. The white Hydrocal is surfaced with a thick, translucent layer of resin in alternating colors of pale frosty green and smoky taupe. The piece has a cool, minimal elegance. If you're making sleek, space-age, minimalist work like this, there's always a danger of it becoming too sterile or too design-focused. But Fleming has some good stuff going on overall and has managed to avoid these pitfalls in most of the show. There's a great energy to his constant experimentation with forms, and his increased focus on how to present them is making his work stronger. Through July 2. 4411 Montrose, 713-520-9200.

"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.

"Roaming" In Todd Hido's show at Inman Gallery, he turns his lens to rural roadside landscapes, coming up with images that look like they were taken by a drifter or a fugitive. If the killers Truman Capote profiled in In Cold Blood had stopped to take pictures on their way to Holcomb, Kansas, to murder the Clutter family, these are the kinds of images they might have captured. Photographs are shot through rain-spattered windows. Wet roads curve through wide prairies, and telephone poles lean at bizarre angles. The landscape is desolate and unpopulated, and the images are so disturbingly bleak they feel black-and-white, even though they're shot in color. A slightly less rural image depicts an overgrown asphalt path at night. Flanked by a metal railing, it runs down a hill under the faint, foggy light of streetlamps. You imagine it leading to the scene of a tragedy. In another nocturnal image, a streetlight shines down on a wet car cover bunched around what appears to be a '70s muscle car. The car looks like it has been body-bagged. Hido's photographs don't show any people, just evidence of their presence, which contributes to the general aura of creepiness. It's like those horror movies where a doomed character naively says, "Hey, where did everybody go?" But there is one portrait in the mix. It shows the back of the head of a woman with a straw-blond mane on a sunny day, the fall foliage behind her blending with the color of her hair, which seems to swing slightly, as if she were about to turn to face you. There shouldn't be anything disturbing about this image, but somehow you imagine her turning around, her eyes wide with horror. Through July 2. 3901 Main, 713-526-7800.

"Terry Winters/Paintings, Drawings, Prints/1994--2004" For some artists, line expresses an effortless fluidity, but in Terry Winters's case, his marks are dense, hard-won efforts. And they dominate his art. While his abstract work contains some organic references, it is the dogged pursuit of the regular, scientific and mathematical that most permeates his work. In his prints, drawings and paintings, lines converge and overlap, and grids spiral and warp. Many of his marks seem to allude to computer-aided efforts to diagram and map and define three dimensions, but Winters is about as far as you can get from sterile digital precision. You can feel the effort involved in the layered and thickly scrubbed and brushed marks of his paintings. And yet somehow the work doesn't feel overworked or labored, just determined. When they succeed, Winters's networks of color and line fascinate and hold the viewer. Through July 10 at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250.

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer