Capsule Reviews

DiverseWorks: J Hill's Sound Installations You can hear the Sonny Liston/Muhammad Ali fight in the bathroom at DiverseWorks. It's part of an ongoing series of sound installations by artist J Hill in the art space's two public bathrooms. Hill dotted the walls and ceiling of the bathroom with speakers, transforming the toilet environment. For the first bathroom, Hill recorded himself at home watching the classic fight. In the background are domestic noises such as water running in the kitchen sink. You could hog the bathroom and listen to the whole match. The second bathroom includes sounds such as a teakettle boiling, birds chirping and, possibly, morning cartoons in the background. Hill is creating a kind of cozy intimacy not generally associated with public toilets as he lets bathroom patrons eavesdrop on his life. His sound installations run through May at DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346.

"Kim Squaglia" Kim Squaglia makes paintings that are so beautifully and sleekly crafted, they feel like design objects. She uses fabulous colors: the palest of sage greens, hot magentas, chocolaty browns, dusty pinks, a 1950's turquoise...Her looping lines, pours of color and carefully delineated biomorphically abstract forms float in and over thick, perfect layers of resin. The resin creates glossy and clear or matte and translucent strata, adding physical and visual depth to the artist's imagery. But the ultimate kicker is that while Squaglia's paintings have the visual and tactile appeal of ultra high-end designer objects, their quirky imagery keeps them firmly in the realm of fine art. Through February 4 at Finesilver Gallery, 3913 Main, 713-524-3733.

"Nina Bovasso: Pure Plastic Plastic par mano a mano" The color in Nina Bovasso's paintings is so vibrant, it strays into the neon. Her works are riotous affairs comprised of bold strokes and primarily abstract forms. The paintings are filled with circles, squares and grids, but there's nothing hard-edged about them; they have the air of a crazy quilt. The imagery is more drawn than painted, and it's executed in a determined but childlike manner. Loopy little flowers are tossed in for good measure. It's easy for an artist to throw a lot of colors and marks on the page, but controlling the cacophony is hard to pull off. Bovasso manages it with glee. Through December 30 at Inman Gallery, 3901 Main, 713-526-7800.

"White Noise" At the opening of this exhibition of work by four Norwegian artists at the Art League Houston, choreographer and dancer Øyvind Jørgensen was performing. He was sitting on a cube and staring into space. Jørgensen was apparently representing the Norwegian branch of the Association of Slow Moving and Expressionless Performance Artists. The nonperformance art was marginally better. Lise Bjørne's curtain of needles was pretty and sparkly, until you figured out they were used acupuncture needles. In what has to be a labor-intensive process, Janine Magelssen mixes powdered chalk with glue and layers it onto Plexiglas panels, creating bas-relief geometric shapes -- circles, rectangles and angled lines -- on the white surfaces. At first glance, the work looks like generic modern home décor straight from Ikea, but if you take the time to walk up to it and really look at it, it gets a little better. Accompanying the visual work is a sound piece by audio artist Nils Olav Bøe that must be meant as a sort of soundtrack for the show. Like Jørgensen's contribution, it's competently mediocre. Through January 5, 1953 Montrose Blvd., 713-523-9530.

"Witnesses to a Surrealist Vision" A 1950s Hopi Kachina doll based on Mickey Mouse, a coconut seed that looks like a butt and a creepy-looking 18th- or 19th-century "Wildman" leather suit studded with leather spikes from the dark recesses of Germany or Switzerland are among the 133 objects coexisting in the intimate space of "Witnesses to a Surrealist Vision," an ongoing show at the Menil Collection. All of the objects in this exhibition were either owned by the surrealists or are similar to those that they collected, according to the exhibition text. And the 130 remaining objects are all equally weird. Tucked into a small, darkly lit room in the back of the Menil's permanent surrealist exhibition, "Witnesses" is a treasure trove of amazing, eclectic objects. It re-creates the idea of the Wunderkammer ("room of wonders"), a cabinet of curiosities -- natural and unnatural, real and fake. It's a wonderful insight into the surrealist vision, as well as a provocative juxtaposition of objects from all over the world, with an emphasis on works from Africa and Oceania. The tiny space is one of the jewels of the Menil Collection, but one you might forget about in the midst of all its temporary exhibitions. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400.

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer