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.

"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.

"Inversion" It looks like someone shot a giant cannon at the old Art League studio building on Montrose -- you can see straight through it. Called Inversion, it's an amazing, traffic-stopping project; the elderly wooden bungalow has been transformed into a piece of art instead of an art studio. The culprits, Dan Havel and Dean Ruck, took the siding off the exterior of the building and used it to build a giant funnel-like tunnel that organically curves its way through the building. It looks like a wooden mold for a tornado. The site-specific work is up for only a limited time, until the demolition crew arrives to bulldoze the house to make way for a new Art League building sometime this summer. If only people had done something this great with the hundreds of other bungalows that have been obliterated in Montrose's town-home-ification. 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530.

"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.

"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.

"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