Capsule Reviews

"Hyper'real'ism: Fellowship Series VI" Bill Davenport has been making a lot of quirky trompe l'oeil paintings of late, but with Dark Door, he's taken fake to the next level of absurdity. Davenport has made a phenomenal and fantastically ridiculous sculpture. It's a giant medieval-looking wooden door with big metal bolts and a giant iron knocker -- except it's all crafted from insulating foam board and faux-painted with acrylic. The faux bois of the massive "wooden" planks that make up the door have a wonderful cartoonlike quality. The "iron" knocker and bolts have been carved to look like hand-hammered iron. It's jaw-droppingly silly. The door could be keeping out your childhood nightmares or maybe just John Ashcroft. Painting all that fake wood must have taken forever, but according to Davenport, "the tough part was getting the ogre behind the door." Works by Greg Donner, Francesca Fuchs and Tierney Malone are also on view as a part of the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County's Fellowship Series VI. The show is definitely worth a trip. Through January 10 at CACHH's Space 125, 3201 Allen Parkway, ground floor, 713-527-9330.

"The Singing Posters" A few years ago, Allen Ruppersberg learned that his art students at UCLA had never heard of Allen Ginsberg's Howl, one of the seminal texts of the beat generation. So the artist conceived "The Singing Posters" an exhibition devoted to the epic poem. Ruppersberg has covered two walls of the Rice Gallery's main room with hundreds of colorful posters. Vibrant greens, yellows, blues, reds and pinks abound. The first verse of Ginsberg's text is chopped up and printed out in various phonetic spellings and capitalizations. Thrown in with Howl are reprints of advertisements seen from the side of the road in L.A., such as "Child Custody Services," "Domino Tournament" or "Cash for Your House." And some of the other posters are blank. The original poem was a mixed-up mess of catchphrases and emotions, just like the ambience of the period when it was penned (the mid-'50s). Ruppersberg's reworking of the poem plants it firmly in the age of ADHD, where chaos is king. In the gallery's smaller room, Ruppersberg has created a slightly different version of the installation. One wall is devoted entirely to passages from Howl, while the other is a checkerboard of solid colors and prints. The exhibition also includes a photocopied book, Haul or Wave Goodbye to Grandma ("haul" being a phonetic spelling for "howl"), an autobiographical account of the artist's life and times, with particular emphasis placed on the '60s and '70s. Here there are pics of birthday cakes, his driver's license and his art. The entire exhibition blurs together to present a wonderful portrayal of an era of immense social importance. Fundamentally it's hippie art, but Ruppersberg steers clear of verbal clichés and hackneyed imagery as much as possible, making the exhibition perfect for a university gallery. Through December 12, 6100 Main, 713-348-6069.

"THE STORE: for the Person who has Everything! Version 2.0" Looking for interesting holiday gift ideas and have a burning desire to support cash-poor visual artists? "THE STORE: for the Person who has Everything! Version 2.0" may be the answer to your holiday needs. "It's an art exhibit, it's a store, it's BOTH," according to curators Jahjehan Bath Ives and Debbie Riddle. What it has is an interesting array of art/objects. Jason Villegas contributed an absolutely hysterical Jackalope head crafted from cardboard and multicolored duct tape. It's a perfect absurdist decoration for your holiday hearth. Meanwhile, artist Amanda Matt has documented the entire contents of her refrigerator and turned each picture into a magnet. (You can decorate your fridge with a picture of somebody else's crusty bottle of ketchup!) The "Houston, It's Worth It" guys are out in force as well, with T-shirts and postcards touting their anti-slogan. It's the ideal -- honest -- civic campaign that celebrates such Houstonesque attributes as flying cockroaches, flooding and sprawl. (Rumor has it Mayor Bill White heartily approves.) Through December 24 at Negative Space, 68 Yale, 713-869-1603.

"Truth to Power" "Truth to Power" presents moving portraits and biographies of political activists from around the world, and it should inspire anyone thinking about fleeing to Canada to remain at home. Eddie Adams's photographic portraits of activists are paired with biographies written by Kerry Kennedy. They are people such as Kenyan political rights activist Koigi Wa Wamwere, a thoughtful-looking man in a trench coat and hat. Wamwere grew up in poverty in a forest community but excelled in school and was awarded a scholarship to Cornell University. Instead of taking a comfortable job abroad after graduating in 1973, Wamwere returned to Kenya to work for democratic reform. His unrelenting commitment to improving the lives of people in his home country has resulted in his undergoing detention, torture and imprisonment for much of his adult life. Yet he hasn't fled. The Station's message is that we have to stick around and work if we want things to change. Through January 15. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900.

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