Capsule Reviews

"Amy Blakemore: Recent Pictures" Amy Blakemore has photographed her subjects with a delicate, subtle skill, capturing lovely images that feel like accidents and have a warm, faded nostalgia about them. Blakemore uses a plastic Diana camera, whose low-tech cheapness imparts a hazy aesthetic to her subjects. Diana cameras tend to blur and to vignette, causing the images to go dark and fuzzy around the edges. Blakemore chooses to use the camera for these qualities, but she also uses the darkroom to mediate its effects. The images are square-format, which, in our world of four-by-six Walgreens prints, enhances their vintage associations. Blakemore prints her photographs at 20-by-20 inches, a size that allows them to remain intimate but lets you really explore the images. And a tender empathy permeates Blakemore's portraits of people. In Rob (2004), a model of male-pattern baldness fills the lower part of the frame. We see the top of the man's skull as he looks down, his dark hair retreating across his scalp. His skull is a pale sphere against his orange shirt. A backdrop of worn, scrubby grass fills the rest of the picture plane, creating a simple, satisfying arrangement. Through April 2 at Inman Gallery, 3901 Main, 713-526-7800.

"Double Consciousness" Organized by Valerie Cassel Oliver, this show takes on the difficult task of curating a historical overview exhibition around race and a particular approach to art. Many of the works on view, like Adrian Piper's, are conceptual and deal with black issues, while others, like the hard-core conceptual, mathematically based drawings of Charles Gaines, do not. Obviously, African-American artists make a broad range of work that may or may not deal directly with black issues. In the end, the exhibition's works share two things: the race of their maker and a conceptual approach to art-making. Piper's 1988 video Cornered is one of the show's standout works, presenting a brilliant, razor-sharp analysis of racial attitudes and preconceptions in America. She cleanly dissects everyone from the overtly prejudiced to the self-congratulatory liberal. Videos of William Pope.L's performances are also on view. For Eating the Wall Street Journal (2000), he sat on a toilet atop a high platform wearing a jock strap, reading The Wall Street Journal and swigging down pieces of it with a gallon of milk. It's the kind of work that shocks and revolts people, but that's part of the point. Houston artists have some impressive works in the show. Bert Long's vibrantly colored ice sculptures are spectacular and enshrined in their own enormous glass-walled freezer. Karen Oliver's 2003 work Bench (seating for one), in which a tiny little metal shelf/seat projects from a massive brick wall, is a study in loneliness and isolation. David McGee's watercolors tellingly combine portraits of hip-hop figures with the names of Dadaist artists. And Robert Pruitt spoofs white corporate pretension and exploitation by displaying a series of clocks set to time zones labeled Watts, Detroit, Haiti, Nyandarua... "Double Consciousness" has brought together some strong and provocative pieces. Through April 17 at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250.

"Naia del Castillo: Traps and Seductions" Naia del Castillo creates clothing that manifests emotional states and interpersonal relationships, and uses it as props for her staged photographs. In Untitled -- Office Hours (2000), a man in a dark business suit faces to the side, staring straight ahead. Propped against him at an angle is a woman in a beige suit. She isn't just leaning, she's attached. A hood grows out from the cloth of the man's suit and ties under the woman's chin. (Behind every great man...) For Domestic Space -- Bed (2001), a woman lies on a bed covered with creamy white sheets, except the sheets have enveloped her. The bodice of her white sleeveless dress grows into the sheets of the bed. The fabric of the pillow surrounds her head and encircles her face. Is it a manifestation of depressive lethargy or something even darker? Through April 2 at De Santos Gallery, 1724-A Richmond, 713-520-1200.

"Perspectives 145: Bodys Isek Kingelez" Bodys Isek Kingelez has designed a fantastic new world downstairs at the CAMH -- and he wouldn't hesitate to tell you so. In fact, he might add a couple more superlatives to the description. The Congolese artist, who in a video says people think of him as a "small god," makes over-the-top architectural models from paper, cardboard and found objects. Beautifully and crisply executed, they point the way to a fabulous new world, a utopia of the artist's own design. But Kingelez's hyperbole and egomania kind of fit. After all, what would you expect from someone who wants to remake the world? And somebody ought to give him a shot at it, large-scale. His Aeromode is pink, yellow and gray, with curving, arcing forms, and it's way cooler than any air terminal anywhere. Kingelez's designs look like the master-planned city of Brasilia on steroids, cut with art deco and sprinkled with a dash of Dr. Seuss. Through May 1 at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250.

"Robert Mangold: Column Paintings and Studies" Robert Mangold's paintings at Texas Gallery continue the veteran artist's more than four decades of abstraction. Mangold's paintings and their fields of color lean toward the minimal but are cut with linear elements. In his current body of work, he's presenting tall, narrow, columnlike paintings. Mangold's grounds are thinly painted, the acrylic pigment scrubbed on in diluted layers. The canvases are divided with rectangular grids, and Mangold has drawn slender lines that elegantly arc and snake over their cells. The paintings work best in darker or slightly earthier tones, like the deep purple and warm gray he uses in two of them. Least successful is Column Painting 11 -- the bright lemony yellow of its surface is too translucent. The ground seems hastily covered, and against its facile layer, Mangold's curving pencil lines seem like a prelude to something that never came. Through March 19. 2012 Peden, 713-524-1593.

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer
Keith Plocek
Contact: Keith Plocek