Capsule Reviews

"Ant Farm 1968-78" Most Houstonians know the art/architectural collective Ant Farm because of its prominent Texas work, the 1974 Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo with its ten vintage Cadillacs buried nose-first in the ground. But Ant Farm's oeuvre is far broader and more diverse than that one iconic photogenic work. This exhibition presents ten years of smart, riotous, creative and rebellious projects through photos, objects, videos and documentation. Ant Farm's work began in San Francisco in 1968 with Doug Michels and Chip Lord. Embodying the spirit of the times, they stamped OBSOLETE on a copy of an address by the president of the California Council of the American Institute of Architects. Other young architects and artists joined the collective, and Ant Farm went on to design the idealistic, amoeboid House of the Century (1971-73) in Angleton, Texas. They created and toured their 1969 work 50 x 50' Pillow, a giant inflatable and highly interactive installation. They crashed a car through a wall of TVs for 1975's Media Burn, and that same year staged a video re-enactment of the Kennedy assassination. Along the way, Ant Farm created things like time capsules from an old refrigerator and an Oldsmobile station wagon. The show also gives you a big whiff of the period's zeitgeist -- you half expect to find a forgotten roach stuck to this stuff. Through March 5 at the Blaffer Gallery at the University of Houston, 120 Fine Arts Building, 713-743-9528.

"Contemporary Erotic Drawing" At this show, T&A abound and jiggle around. Straight, gay, group, solo -- pick your poison, and you can find an artist with it on tap. And that's just the conservative stuff. A lot of the works are meant to shock, and if a few of them don't make you a little uncomfortable -- like Kim McCarty's two watercolors of shirtless figures, who seem more than a little young to be viewed from the eye of Eros -- then you might want to consider counseling. But the show isn't all shock and awe. There's a lot of funny stuff in here, too. In Cristina Lucas's computer animation, Flying Boys, the characters do just what the title suggests: They fly about, albeit by means of a quite unconventional method of propulsion. They're fully clothed, you see, except for their penises, which whirl around like helicopter blades. This show is also the perfect venue for the work of local artist Scott Burns, who seems to have turned over his whole oeuvre to kinkiness. Here he has four pieces, all of which exhibit a lovely cleanliness of line, and all of which depict a devilish feminine figure tempting a fat Buddha. And, of course, no erotic art show would be complete without the work of R. Crumb. Crumb really is the grandfather of the contemporary scene. Three of his works are on display here, one of which shows a guy staring at his engorged penis. At the top is a caption that might be the best way to describe the entire show: "unfucking real." Check it out. Though March 5 at DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346.

"Eve Sussman: 89 Seconds at Alczar" Eve Sussman's work 89 Seconds at Alczar was considered one of the standouts of the 2004 Whitney Biennial. On view at Rice Gallery, the ten-minute high-definition video is constructed around Velzquez's famed 1656 painting Las Meninas. Sussman is imagining the moments before and after the famous painting, as if the scene were captured in a 17th-century snapshot. The players move around in the space before and after, briefly reconstructing the painting's scene. Sussman is trying to capture a portentous sense of royal intrigue in these moments, and she goes a little over the top. Several of the actor's mannerisms and dramatic pauses are too heavy-handed, but even so, the work is riveting. The set was built in a Brooklyn garage, but Sussman has managed to create a wonderful sense of place. The lighting is marvelous, as "daylight" streams into the darkened chamber to mix with "firelight." The camera moves slowly but agilely around the room, and the actors hone in on odd details, like the fabric of a sleeve. The video's sound is haunting as the crackling of the fire blends with a human heartbeat and almost audible whispers. Through February 27. 6100 Main, 713-348-6069.

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