Capsule Reviews

"Evidence" Tracking trends in contemporary painting is as futile as clutching smoke. You can't be sure until years later that what you're promoting is going to catch fire, heat up your audience and interest them enough so they'll spend their cash to collect it. Inman Gallery has mounted another of its "Evidence" shows to spotlight what it sees as the direction painting is going. This small exhibition -- five artists, 11 works -- proves the maxim that the more things change, the more they stay the same. All the works are "gestural," meaning if it's supposed to be a face, it'll look like a face. Abstraction and geometric forms are used as great splashy overlays of color, but the age-old tradition of lifelike drawing is much in evidence in these landscapes and figures. Four of the five artists are graduates of Yale or the famous Rhode Island School of Design, which may be a trend in itself. As for the works, two from Whitney Bedford's primitive, blood-blobbed "Broken Hand" series are two more than enough. They're small, too general in subject and fairly ugly. The landscapes by Tomory Dodge and Tom McGrath -- though alive with crosshatching brushstrokes and, in McGrath's case, a wavy, hallucinogenic quality -- are nothing special. More telling is Norwegian Haavard Homstvedt's sad, slightly creepy Stripes vs. Solids, a sepia homage to old-timey daguerreotypes. His chubby, almost identical Botero-faced boys smile at us with guilty secrets. Dominating the show is Houstonian Angela Fraleigh's nevertheless. Monumental and frescolike, its two female Renaissance faces peer out as one hand pushes against the edge of the frame; both are smothered under abstract splotches of oozing sea-green, as if drowning. Lacquer drips down the canvas, and we can't be sure if these women are being uncovered under their impasto or being walled in. It's a big painting, dreamlike and immediately haunting. Through May 14. 3901 Main, 713-526-7800.

"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 in mid-June. If only people had done something this great with the hundreds of other bungalows that have been obliterated in Montrose's town-home-ification. Through sometime in June. 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530. Public opening, Saturday, May 21, 6-9 p.m.

"Neo Geo" One goes to the Anya Tish Gallery to see what's new in art on the Eastern front, especially central Europe and Russia. In its latest show, also in its latest digs, Jozsef Bullas from Hungary and Leszek Lewandowski from Poland get their Houston debut, and Robert Varady from Hungary gets his second showing. Fun and high spirits play throughout these works. Varady's large oils are throwbacks to the geometric abstracts of the '80s, which themselves were throwbacks to those rectangles made famous by Mondian in the '20s, but Varady gives his patterns, which he calls fractals, eye-pleasing repetition and smooth juxtapositions of colors. Green and yellow squares bounce pleasantly across XI/2, while tangent parabolas, in a color best described as Big Bird yellow, float gracefully through X. Meanwhile, Bullas, whose work was recently selected along with that of other fellow countrymen to grace the Washington home of the Hungarian ambassador, likes to paint rainbows and soft stripes of colors, with contrasting lines smudged across their surfaces. His soft pastel palette, while decorative, isn't all that inventive or interesting. But it's just the sort of thing to hang in an ambassador's living room -- it won't clash with the drapes. The cleverest pieces, though, are Lewandowski's op-art-electrified constructions. His shallow boxes with rotating discs of colored filters are little mechanical marvels. Their built-in optical illusions convey a child's sense of discovery and playfulness that's straight out of Mr. Wizard. Through May 31. 4411 Montrose, 713-524-2299.

"Opening Bloom" For the inaugural exhibition in its spiffy upstairs new gallery space on Montrose, Barbara Davis Gallery has culled 17 signature pieces from its impressive artist roster. There's something for everyone in this big ol' smorgasbord of contemporary art. A cheerful column of Paul Fleming's aquamarine resin tiles runs vertically up the wall for ten feet; next to it is Emilio Perez's whacked-out rat's-nest plate of spaghettilike strands called Misplaced My Brain. Jeremy Kidd's anthropomorphic cityscape Skyopolis, with its computer-enhanced winged buildings, seems to fly off the wall; it's juxtaposed by Robbie Austin's humorous Kite, a stitched-together, happy piece made out of twine, wood and latex. Paul Kittelson's Supper is a fun little boxed triptych of three favorite food groups: broccoli florets, marbled meat and whipped cream or butter. But if you have an empty grand ballroom and a mere $78,000 to spend, then James Surls's massive mahogany-and-steel sculpture 386 Flower could comfortably hang from the ceiling and fill the space. Wire up the branches and you'd have a drop-dead-gorgeous chandelier. The photography on view by Brendan Mulcahy and Ann Stautberg is less impressive, even if their numbing titles scream "Art!" Through May 28. 4411 Montrose, 713-520-9200.

"Thought Crimes: The Art of Subversion" Ever want to have your own radio show, where you could play the music you like, interview your friends or provide a talk-radio alternative to OxyContin addict Rush and his ilk? For his contribution to the impudent, chock-full-o'-interesting-stuff show at DiverseWorks (see full review, page 39), artist Gregory Green offers up a 35-watt FM pirate radio station for the asking. A platform for information, misinformation or just goofing around, airtime is yours for the asking. Just sign your name on the sheet. The upcoming schedule includes artist David McGee, who, when he's not making art, will wait hours on hold to have it out with right-wing talk radio stars. Housed in its own room in the "Thought Crimes" exhibition, WCBS, Radio Caroline, 90.5 FM comes with all the equipment you need, plus the authentic pirate radio environment of thrift-store furniture, empty beer bottles and a hookah. And the signal covers a 20-mile area. To listen, tune in to 92.5 FM. Through May 28. 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346.

"Zane Lewis: Pink Lemonade, the Procession" This Zane Lewis installation is gorgeous and contemplative. Lewis has walled in the DiverseWorks project space, making viewers enter through two white churchlike doors that are so low, one recent visitor clocked her head going in. But once you get inside, things are pretty spectacular. Lewis has covered the entire space with mirrors, creating a continuous mirrored shelf that runs unbroken around the room. Rows of tiny crack vials filled with "pink lemonade" rest on the shelf, lit from beneath. A Gregorian chant plays in the rectangular space, whose outline, in dots of luminous pink light, reflects itself into infinity. The interior is like a cross between über-hip, new-millennia, religious cult headquarters and the lair of an evil mad scientist with a good interior designer. It's a great space, even if the whole pink lemonade/crack vials/Gregorian chants/mirrors thing is conceptually awkward. Through May 28. 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346.

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover
Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer