Capsule Reviews

"Erika Blumenfeld: Inconstant Moon" Try peering into the nocturnal skies over our fair city. You will discover, as any telescope owner in Houston will tell you, that you can't see shit. Houston's ambient light overwhelms most everything. But Marfa, now that's a different story. The lack of ambient light there worked out pretty well for Erika Blumenfeld during her residency at the Marfa Ballroom. Blumenfeld makes photographs by exposing photographic paper directly to light. The moon is a subject of particular fixation, and she's used it to create photographs tinged with a lunar glow. She arranges the images into grids to create large-scale abstract works. The photographs have gorgeous tonal ranges, but the white borders of the paper combined with the grids are distracting. While Blumenfeld was in Marfa, the nearby McDonald Observatory allowed her to set up her telescope at one of its astronomy lodges. She recorded the moon every day for a month and then edited the entire lunar cycle down to a 30-minute video. It's a lovely contemplative work that captures and condenses the beauty of a natural phenomenon -- moonlight becomes abstract form. Through January 19 at DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346.

"Leonardo Drew" San Antonio's Finesilver Gallery is planning to open a Houston branch, and it already has a show on view here. The gallery is temporarily camping in the New World Museum's hip space to present an exhibition of works by Leonardo Drew. Drew's work employs materials that seem to be on the verge of decay and deterioration. Rust and paper are frequent components. In some of the most interesting pieces, Drew has "cast" found objects in paper by molding sheets of it around their three-dimensional forms. As you walk in the gallery, Number 87 (2004) explodes out from the entry wall. It looks like a spiky profusion of construction materials, but the hollow forms are completely fabricated from thin, fragile sheets of paper. These aren't crisp and pristine origami-esque objects; instead, they're worn-looking and slightly tattered. Number 89 (2004) is a series of cast bricks displayed in a grid on Plexiglas shelves. A Plexiglas box surrounds them. Grids crop up frequently in Drew's work as he seemingly seeks to give order to the disorderly. He chose to cast eroded and broken fragments of bricks for the piece; the lightness of the paper is wonderfully at odds with the subject, making the concept of "brick and mortar" suddenly seem ephemeral. Also visible is the text imprinted on the bricks, which is reminiscent of the way grave rubbings try to capture and preserve worn words from stone. And the display case itself is wonderfully consistent with Drew's aesthetic. You can see the smeared silicone adhesive that holds the shelves together. It's just messy enough to keep the work from pristine minimalism. Through January 30. 5230 Center, 210-354-3333.

"Notice Forest" Japanese artist Yuken Teruya seems to be on a quest to restore disposable paper products to their former glory. In his art he uses stuff like cast-off fast-food sacks and the cores from toilet-paper rolls. As improbable as it sounds, he conjures up something of the organic glory of their past lives. Teruya acts almost like a spiritual medium as he cuts tiny, delicately beautiful silhouettes of trees from a McDonald's Happy Meal sack whose previous raison d'etre was to provide temporary housing for burgers and fries. The shapes are taken from trees Teruya photographs and captures from daily life. The silhouettes hang down into the bag's interior, and Teruya places the sacks on their sides so you peer into their openings to view the tiny organic world within. Who knew a McDonald's bag could become an intimate environment? Through January 15 at DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346.

"Perspectives 144: Amalgama" The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston brings us an exhibition of eight works by emerging collaborators. The collaborative Otabenga Jones & Associates' past projects have explored African-American political and popular culture. For the CAMH show, the artists bought an old sedan, painted it to look like a cop car and then flipped it. It rests on its roof, and audio from the Watts riots -- news reports and police radios -- plays from speakers inside the car. Titled We Did It for Love, the piece plays into a kind of political nostalgia. Meanwhile, besides collaborating with Bernard Brunon of "THAT'S PAINTING Productions" for the CAMH show, Laura Lark worked with Portland artist Harrell Fletcher, who runs the Web site, which lists assignments that people can complete and present. For one assignment, she recruited a cast of fellow local art-scene characters and their children to create a scene from her life story. There's a great impromptu energy to the video. Lark takes some really painful things -- large and small childhood traumas and adult ordeals -- and makes them darkly comic. And Paul Druecke's collaboration is with his subjects. He sets up a camera and asks them to photograph themselves upon waking. The results are an intimate series of bleary-eyed, bed-headed faces. These collaborators and their inclusive vision are a breath of fresh air. Through January 23. 5216 Montrose, 713-824-8250.

"Red Fall" "Red Fall" presents the politically charged work of 12 local, national and international artists. These are strong and politically invigorating exhibitions for anyone -- no matter if you were depressed or elated by the elections. One work, S.O.S. -- Urgent Messages to the President from the Streets of the Bronx, a video by Mel Chin, features "84 Bronx residents offering heartfelt thoughts to the President." It sounds straightforward, but it's an incredibly powerful piece. In it, ethnically and politically diverse people offer the president their advice on a range of issues. One by one, each person stares into the camera without speaking, as the text of his or her message runs along the bottom of the screen. The video is accompanied by a thumping, rumbling audio -- the sound of the interviewees' heartbeats, taped by Chin. Other works include a series of photographs by Paul Fusco, Fallen Soldiers -- Iraq, which presents the flag-draped coffins of the dead, and Bringing the War Home (2004), an installation by David Krueger. Through January 15 at the Station, 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900.

"Red VS Blue" The artists of Aerosol Warfare Gallery put out a worldwide call for 11-by-17 poster art in response to the 2004 American presidential election. They posted it on their Web site and received submissions from places as far away as South Africa and Hong Kong, as well as works by local Houston artists. The show is as eclectic as one would expect with an open call, but it contains some interesting works, such as Melinda Mosheim¹s collages of torn and layered posters. They pair text like "Vote Nov. 2" with the sentence "A Romantic Comedy with Zombies." Politically speaking, with a couple of exceptions, the artists' work is predominately anti-Bush. Kerry and the Democrats don't fare a whole lot better -- a lot of the work on view is anti-everybody, reflecting the disaffected zeitgeist. Through January 31. 1004 Palmer, suite A, 713-202-6496.

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer