Capsule Reviews

"The Cat's Meow" "The Cat's Meow" is a one-room, in-house affair. One standout is a video by Peter Fischli and David Weiss. In it, a cat, with what looks like a dead flea on its head, laps milk from a saucer. That's all that happens. But the cat is so focused that it's kind of mesmerizing. You also realize that lapping is a pretty inefficient way to take in liquid. The cat fans visiting the exhibition cooed at the feline like it was a newborn baby. A kitty and a saucer of milk are a ridiculously banal and saccharine combination, but that's Fischli and Weiss's point; amusing takes on the ordinary are their stock in trade. The video was originally created for the massive Panavision Astrovision screen that overlooks Times Square. Imagining the mundane footage playing in such a frenetic context makes it perfectly absurd and absurdly perfect. How you read Roger Ballen's photograph Portrait of a Sleeping Girl (2000) really depends on how you feel about cats. A young girl sleeps with a blanket tightly wrapped around her. A black cat with a patch of white is curled up on her back. Some viewers may wonder if he's going to suck her soul out while she sleeps, but cat lovers may have a more sentimental take on the image. Through January 15. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300.

"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.

"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, 713-523-9530.

"Wishing for Synchronicity: Works by Pipilotti Rist" This is one of the best installations in recent memory. The survey of the Swiss video artist's work has wonderfully transformed the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. The CAMH's main gallery is filled with projections of Rist's lushly colored, joyously dreamlike video works. Rist's design for the space has one work flowing into the other, through spaces both open and enclosed. The entire floor is darkened; the videos themselves provide the only illumination. This dynamic installation is possible because of the nature of the artist's work -- Rist continually adapts and reconfigures past creations for each new venue. For her, a survey of past works is not a rigid re-presentation of her art but a reimagining of it. One standout is I'm Not the Girl Who Misses Much (1987), an early piece in which Rist sings her own, alternately sped-up and slowed-down lyrics adapted from the Beatles' "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." The image is blurry as Rist, clad in a black dress with her bosom exposed, dances frenetically. The audio gets faster and faster until it sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks -- then it becomes glacially slow. Twenty years later, it looks like an edgy music video starring a teenager on crack dancing in her bedroom to her favorite song. It was made, according to Rist, before she had ever seen a music video. Through January 14. 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250.

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Kelly Klaasmeyer
Contact: Kelly Klaasmeyer