Capsule Reviews

"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.

"Jenny Perlin: Sight Reading" Tucked away in the upstairs gallery at the Glassell School is the stuff of a piano student's nightmares: sight-reading. In a video installation by Jenny Perlin, organized by Core Program critical studies resident Claire Barliant, three pianists sight-read Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor. Presented on three different screens, the pianists begin at the same time, but they quickly get out of sync. When one makes a mistake, the pianist's video screen goes blank for five seconds. Rather than hoping no one will notice their errors, Perlin calls pointed attention to them. As the performances progress, the pianists slowly end, leaving one woman doggedly struggling through to the finish. The slightly sadistic project makes the viewer uneasy as it explores the anxiety of performing and playing the unknown. It also highlights the variables individual performers introduce when they take on a composer's work. Through March 15 at the Project Room, Glassell School of Art, 5101 Montrose, 713-639-7500.

"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.

"New Cartoon!" In Passionate Plush, one of the best pieces of Jesus art in recent memory, Jason Villegas has sculpted a life-size crucified Christ out of stuffed felt. But it's only a small part of the raucous irreverence of "New Cartoon!" at Deborah Colton Gallery. Cory Arcangel hacked an old Hogan's Alley Nintendo game to create I Shot Andy Warhol, a video game in which viewers can shoot Andy Warhol just like Valerie Solanis once did. Meanwhile, Andy Coolquitt has filled the gallery with polychromed wooden cutouts of pan-animal copulation -- raccoons, squirrels, poodles, roosters...oh, my! Ai Kijima has taken images from new and vintage kids' fabrics and quilted them into surreal collages in which cutesy cottages vie with Star Wars figures, Strawberry Shortcake and Winnie the Pooh. Kijima's quilts are extremely well crafted and rivetingly weird. Through March 12. 2500 Summer, third floor, 713-864-2364.

"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