Capsule Reviews

Jessica Stockholder 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. In her latest installation, "Sam Ran Over Sand or Sand Ran Over Sam," at Rice Gallery, three large Styrofoam blocks, painted orange, green and purple, float in the air. An incomplete wall, decked out partially in drywall, has random objects, such as plush armchairs and wooden desks, sticking out of it. Broad strokes of paint abound. The whole thing is signature Stockholder. And that's the problem. Stockholder has been doing this kind of work since her days at Yale in the '80s. This is evident in her retrospective now at Blaffer Gallery, "Kissing the Wall: Works, 1988-2003," which 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 either of these. "Sam Ran Over Sand or Sand Ran Over Sam" runs through October 31 at Rice University Art Gallery, 6100 Main, 713-348-6069; "Kissing the Wall: Works, 1988-2003" runs through November 21 at Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, 120 Fine Arts Building, 713-743-9530.

"Kate Petley/Janaki Lennie" Houston has a new house gallery. Rudolf Projects/ArtScan Gallery, formerly of Vine Street Studios, has reopened in a new Montrose location, the bottom floor of a 1930s brick fourplex on Richmond. This new domestically scaled space is a sharp contrast from their previous warehouse location. The inaugural show features Janaki Lennie and Kate Petley. Lennie creates moody paintings of Houston's polluted, twilight skies. Their colors have an unsettling beauty; fragments of sallow, leafy branches peek into the greenish firmament. The small works show well in the intimate environs of the former living room. Petley's resin works hang in a crisp, white-walled exhibition space that was the dining room. Her paintings are poured panels of lushly colored, translucent resin. While the colors are seductive, the works could be pushed further. Her "mobile" of organic resin shapes is going in a more interesting direction, but it still feels a little safe. Through November 5. 1836 Richmond, 713-256-6386.

"Microwave: Troy/desTroy" The artists in this exhibition make drawings in which the entire page is completely filled with tiny hairlike lines; they shoot daily self-portraits that go on for years; they cover envelopes with miniature trompe l'oeil paintings of stamps. There's something really appealing about a lot this labor-intensive, often conceptual work. The show was curated by the New York-based EC Group. In the group's statement, they talk about Homeric Troy's excavator, Heinrich Schliemann, and describe the show as "the information-age equivalent of the archeological dig" that's "about the impossibility of understanding." You could make those arguments work, but you can also argue that the show's about obsessive-compulsive disorder. Take Ken Solomon, who has shot a portrait of himself every evening for the past three years, without fail. It doesn't matter if he's tired, sick or really freaking drunk (as he appears to be in several images); Solomon takes his own picture every single day of the year. He compiled all of his self-portraits together onto a DVD, and it runs on a continuous loop, displayed on a little screen. He tans and pales, and his cheeks cycle from lean to chubby and back again. Titled The Aging Project Part I (2003), the work is intimate, and the small scale is mercifully unpretentious. Solomon plans to continue it until he dies. We wouldn't bet against him. "Microwave: Troy/desTroy" has an international collection of artists. They hail from Iceland, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Morocco, Japan and Uruguay, as well as the United States. We can safely conclude that obsessive-compulsive disorder is an international phenomenon. Thank goodness. Through October 23 at Sicardi Gallery, 2246 Richmond, 713-529-1313.

"Mid-Century Modern Revisited: Design 1943-1953" An enigmatic, molded plywood object hangs on the wall at Brazos Projects for the space's new exhibition. The object is a leg splint, and it was designed by Charles and Ray Eames and marketed to the U.S. Navy during WWII as an alternative to metal splints. Through designing the splint, the Eameses developed a technique to mold plywood and mass-produce it. They would later use the process to design furniture such as the 1946 molded plywood screen, which features beautifully undulating segments of wood held together by unobtrusive fabric hinges. In the show, the screen serves as a backdrop for other spectacular objects, like Eero Saarinen's "Womb Chair," which still looks fantastically contemporary almost 60 years later. The chair is grouped with George Nelson's glowing, podlike "Bubble Lamp" and the warm wood of an early version of Isamu Noguchi's iconic coffee table. While "Mid-Century Modern" has become a widely used and misused appellation, this little jewel of a show brings the term back to its origins with choice and beautiful objects from the early years. Through November 28. 2425 Bissonnet, 713-523-0701.

"William Betts: New Paintings" William Betts makes paintings from digital photographs. Now, that may sound like a pretty straightforward idea, but in Betts's hands, it's an intensely complicated process that involves "proprietary technology" of his own development -- he's designed a machine for paint application. You may remember Roxy Paine's CAMH show a couple of years ago, with its big industrial-looking equipment that blasted paint over canvases. The machines were part of the process and part of the piece. Well, Betts's machine is a sleek, sophisticated and precise behind-the-scenes operative. To create a painting, Betts shoots a photograph, then takes a strip from it that's the width of one pixel -- imagine a stack of different-colored dots. After that, he mixes paint the exact color of each of the dots and extends them into the impossibly slender, crisp parallel lines of color that make up the paintings. The elaborate process results in some amazing works, giving you slender slices of the real world in lines of vivid color. Through October 30 at Poissant Gallery, 5102 Center Street, 713-868-9337.

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David Fahl
Kelly Klaasmeyer
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Keith Plocek
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