Capsule Reviews

"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.

"Michael Nye: Fine Line" Michael Nye wants you to understand that "mental illness is not caused by a weakness of character" and that "mental illness is treatable." The artist has produced a series of striking, thoughtful photographic portraits of people with various degrees of mental illness. Knowing these are pictures of the mentally ill, we scrutinize them, looking for clues. Some look "normal," some don't, and some seem just a little off. Nye understands that we judge people by their appearances, and because of that, he has included their voices. Under each portrait is a set of headphones attached to a box that lists the person's name. You press a button on the box under the portrait of a woman named Adrianne and hear her calmly describe what schizophrenia feels like, when it started, how it changed her life and how it made her see the devil himself. John, also schizophrenic, tells us about when he went to college at Purdue. His roommate moved out because John was too weird. In these frank, poignant stories we see how people have been afflicted by and have striven to overcome these illnesses. Through June 5 at the Houston Center for Photography, 1441 West Alabama, 713-529-4755.

"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 Mondrian 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 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 with 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, artist Gregory Green offers up a 35-watt FM pirate radio station. 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. Through May 28. 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346.

"Virgil Grotfeldt: The Remains of the Hand" They're photographs, they're paintings, they're both...Virgil Grotfeldt's most recent work uses photographs as both point of departure and end product. For the most striking group of images, photographs of nanoparticles brought to him by a student who worked in the science department at Rice University became intriguing grounds for his paintings. Using thinned oil paint, Grotfeldt created gorgeous, undulating strokes of translucent pigment over the tiny dark particles set in the midst of a white ground. He then scanned the finished products and reproduced them on a large scale (47 inches by 37 inches) as digital prints. In another series, Grotfeldt makes use of a collection of aerial photographs in a friend's Amsterdam studio. Taken in the '50s, they presented expanses of landscape in the then-Belgian Congo. There are some lovely images, but an even larger scale would be still more striking. The remnants of the images' past lives -- the numbering from the science photographs and the technical information framing the aerial images -- are distracting. Heightening the mystery of their origins would let viewers lose themselves in visual splendor. Through June 11 at Sicardi Gallery, 2246 Richmond, 713-529-1313.

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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