Capsule Reviews

"Al Souza" You may have seen Al Souza's puzzle paintings. But if you haven't, they're pretty much what they sound like: paintings made out of puzzles. Souza hunts puzzles high and low, in thrift stores and on eBay, and has freelancers assemble them. Then he takes strategic sections of the assembled puzzles and collages them together. He's been doing this for several years, but the new batch on round panels works especially well because something about the circular shape makes them feel like sculptural objects. In Mix Master (2004), Souza creates an absurd blend of pop culture images, tossing together skydivers, pieces of strawberry shortcake, a '70s-era woman with bouffant hair, a bottle of Perrier and a tail-finned sedan. In Blink (2004), Souza blends chunks of op-art-Sequa puzzles with an image of a disco ball. The range of images puzzle manufactures thought were a good idea to produce is amazing. Through November 27 at Moody Gallery, 2815 Colquitt, 713-526-9911.

" ''Hot'* ''Hotter'** ''Hottest'*** : Important New Works from the Lockhart River Gang" The young artists on view at Booker-Lowe Gallery blend contemporary art with their 50,000-year-old culture. The Lockhart River Gang is a group of mainly twentysomething Australian aboriginal artists who are heirs to one of the oldest continuous cultures on the planet -- and the oldest continual art practice. While the work they make is influenced by their culture, it departs from traditional aboriginal art. Rosella Namok is one of the strongest painters in the show. In her work, Namok scrapes back thick, shiny layers of acrylic to reveal vividly colored and multihued underpaintings. In Change of Tide, Quintal Beach (2004), angled lines are cut through an earthy reddish-brown surface to expose an underlying coral-hued layer; the two sets of repeating lines point toward each other like arrows. Namok has created a dramatic abstract composition that also references the natural world. Through December 3. 4623 Feagan, 713-880-1541.

"Kissing the Wall: Works, 1988-2003" There's something about Jessica Stockholder's work that makes it instantly recognizable. With bright, broad strokes slathered on large found objects, her work contains elements of both painting and sculpture. She mixes domestic and construction items at will, creating combinations that are visually and intellectually appealing. Stockholder has been doing this kind of work since her days at Yale in the '80s. Her retrospective at Blaffer Gallery showcases her smaller, more marketable pieces. A lamp sits in a paint-covered bathtub in front of a couch flipped on its side. A car door is jammed inside a wooden frame with a drab cloth draped over it. A stack of red buckets stands in weird contrast to a bright-pink Sheetrock trapezoid. It's all fascinating work, but one wonders when more of the same is no longer enough. Still, if you've never seen a Stockholder show, don't miss it. Through November 21 at Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, 120 Fine Arts Building, 713-743-9530.

"Scott Calhoun: Nature Is a Language, Can't You Read?" Given his smart-ass sense of humor and his history of using collaged porn in his artwork, Scott Calhoun is one of the last people you would imagine making works that draw on things like Victorian faerie paintings and chinoiserie. But for the past several years, Calhoun has had a day job working in the Museum of Fine Arts library, where he comes into contact with a far more eclectic range of material than most of us would probably ever run across in a decade of library visits. Maybe there's also less time for porn, because Calhoun's work has been completely overtaken by images of art book and auction catalogues. And it's been a boon to his art. Calhoun mixes together painted and collaged elements pulled from old daguerreotypes, 19th-century society portraits and botanical prints, among other things. As you might imagine from his recent influences, Calhoun's paintings are really, really pretty. But that prettiness is subtly undercut by the little strange and creepy bits Calhoun inserts into his work. Nightly Cares (2004) is painted on a narrow rectangular canvas reminiscent of a scroll painting. A slender branch elegantly snakes across the dark ground, growing up from a cluster of shelf moss and terminating in lovely but improbable leaves and flowers. It seems like an extremely well-executed if conventional painting by an Asiaphile -- until you look closely. An enormous spider rests on her egg, perched atop a tower of fungal forms. The spider's body sprouts the porcelain-complexioned head of a 19th-century lady, complete with an uptight, upswept coiffure. Through November 13 at Mixture Contemporary Art, 1709 Westheimer, 713-520-6809.

"Scott Gordon: paperwork" Remember collages, those grade-school art projects made with blunt scissors, construction paper and Elmer's glue? Scott Gordon's new collages at Hooks-Epstein Galleries use that time-honored paper-plus-adhesive technique, but with visually sophisticated results. Gordon takes vintage scraps of paper, culled from books, magazines and old letters, and cuts them into geometric forms. There are hints of early cubist and constructivist collages in the way Gordon selects solid-colored swatches and snippets of text and abstract pattern. The materials have a subtle, mellowing patina of age, and they may remind frequent Colquitt visitors of the collage work of Lance Letscher, who shows at nearby McMurtry Gallery. But while Letscher uses strips of old books to compose much larger designs, Gordon pieces and layers together his shapes irregularly. He arranges his cut components with a painter's sense of composition to create small and satisfying works. Through November 27. 2631 Colquitt. 713-522-0718.

"Yigal Ozeri: Long Island City Series" Yigal Ozeri has some kind of weird pigeon phobia, but you wouldn't know it from his current series of pigeon-centric paintings. The images are taken from the pigeon-encrusted windows outside his studio. Ozeri videotapes the birds and then paints from the video. In his work, clusters of pigeons mix with the bold geometric forms of window frames and the sills of aged brick buildings. You imagine Ozeri spending long hours in his studio staring out these windows -- he apparently spent 13 months on the pigeon series alone. The scenes are particular to dense urban areas, and there's a pretense to grittiness in these paintings. But the romantic pinks that emerge from Ozeri's blue- and purple-tinged tones overwhelm any edginess. These are well-composed and well-painted works that need to push themselves a little further beyond the conventional. Through November 27 at New Gallery, 2627 Colquitt, 713-520-7053.

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