Capsule Reviews

"Ann Stautberg" Ann Stautberg is best known for her large-scale, Gulf Coast-centric images. But her work has shifted over the last couple of years; the focus now is monochromatic color and the abstract qualities of organic forms. Stautberg shoots her images in black and white and then hand-colors the prints with translucent layers of oil paint. In her current series of works at Barbara Davis Gallery, the photographs are infused with lush, sultry greens. In 10.20.03, P.M., Austin, No. 1 1/2 (2004), shadows of foliage play against a concrete wall like a still from a tropical film noir, and the palm fronds of 7.30.04, A.M., Houston (2004) have a humid, ominous sensuality. In these new works, rather than capturing a sense of place, Stautberg is creating a sense of place. Through February 28. Warwick Hotel, 5701 Main Street, 11th floor, 713-520-9200.

"Home and Garden" Organized by FotoFest as a part of its series of Inter-Biennial art programs, this show is full of strange takes on domesticity. There are works that are unsettling and funny and beautiful -- sometimes all at once. Curated with Jennifer Ward, the show features eight emerging Texas artists. Among the most promising is Marc Montoya, who scavenges vintage and frequently kitsch-infused 35-millimeter color slides from garage and estate sales, honing in on odd images the original photographer was seemingly oblivious to. In American Jihad I (2003), a teenage boy poses in big dorky headphones attached to a radio/walkie-talkie thingie. And in Blast Off the 4H Way (2003), a small boy on a 1960s parade float stands next to a huge red slightly flaccid, pretty darn phallic rocket. Another participating artist, Julie Ross, has a predilection for seeking American oddity that's similar to Montoya's. She shoots her subjects with a Polaroid camera and then pairs images together. In Untitled (Kitten for Sale) (2001), Ross juxtaposes an image of a JonBenet Ramsey-esque little girl with a shot of a prize-winning fluffy kitten. Other artists include Stephanie Martz, who tears pages from copies of House Beautiful from the Œ60s and inserts images from John Carpenter's Halloween into their interiors; Anderson Wrangle, who stages his own eerie scenes in affluent, upper-middle-class settings; and Michelle Grinstead, who pushes the domestic space toward the surreal, rather than the ominous, by projecting landscape vistas in banal household environments. This is a provocative, successful, sprawling show. FotoFest's headquarters make a good space, but with less of it, the organizers would have been forced to edit, which would've been a good thing. Through February 28. 1113 Vine, 713-223-5522, ext. 19.

"J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere: Hairstyles" In the late '50s and early '60s, a foreign plague threatened to wipe out an integral part of Nigeria's indigenous culture: Nigerian women started wearing wigs. Nigeria has a rich history of elaborate hairstyle traditions; for centuries, women have braided their hair into gorgeously intricate constructions. They passed down the secrets of these designs and patterns from generation to generation. But a blight of mass-produced foreign wigs gradually eroded the knowledge base. Photographer J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere noticed the slow and steady impact wigs were having in Nigeria, and he started to seek out and photograph traditional hairstyles. In 1968, Ojeikere first started taking images devoted to Nigerian culture; his photographs of hairstyles would become his most extensive series, growing to more than 1,000 images. Seven of his photographs are on display at the Blaffer Gallery. The images aren't about portraits of individuals; they're about the artwork that is the hairstyle. Ojeikere hones in on its abstract, sculptural qualities. And the styles are amazing. Elegant, snaking coils of hair are tightly wrapped with shiny thread to create elaborate constructions. Tiny intricate braids loop themselves into dramatic headdresses. Flat braids move across scalps with tidy precision or swirl organically, emphasizing the curve and shape of a skull. Every style is a work of art. Through March 5. University of Houston, 120 Fine Arts Building, 713-743-9530.

"Melanie Crader: Just in Time for Spring" "Just in Time for Spring" is a perfect title for Melanie Crader's new show. Crader takes colors and details from fashion and transforms them into paintings and sculpture. The fashion she draws from isn't edgy, contemporary stuff but the iconic, ladylike styles of the '50s and early '60s. Think scallop-edge slips, Doris Day suits with dyed-to-match pumps and coordinating handbags and hats. Crader also pulls vintage-perfect ad copy phrases for her titles. For You've made it; You deserve it, Crader sandwiches together multicolored pieces of wood with scalloped edging; a detail from lingerie or a summer sundress is extracted and abstracted. Who can resist is a silver painting whose lower right corner has been "lifted." It looks as if it's revealing a strip of pale blue lining and the white of a nylon slip. Other works like You're so special use panels covered with sections of wood that look like layers of crinoline. They're painted in toning shades of yellow, pink, green and blue -- just like a collection of spring coordinates. Crader is presenting some fresh and witty work. Through February 26 at Gallery Sonja Roesch, 2309 Caroline, 713-659-5424.

"Tommy Fitzpatrick: Working Spaces" At Inman Gallery, Tommy Fitzpatrick's new show presents more of his crisp paintings of shiny glassy office buildings, but with subversive undertones. The Enron building is one of his subjects. Its "sky ring" walkway glows an eerie yellow against the cool blue of the glass exterior in Transparency (2004). Enron No. 5 (Distortion No. 1) (2004) is a more blatant comment, as it depicts a curved wall of glass reflecting distorted corporate facades. The buildings look diseased. Pennzoil Place Tower (2004) is a more typical formal exploration of architectural planes and junctures, but it's also visually satisfying. Fitzpatrick has been exploring this territory for a while, but he keeps discovering more and more interesting ways to present it. Through February 18. 3901 Main, 713-526-7800.

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer