"Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America" In 1965, Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez constructed an amazing light-based installation -- pre-James Turrell and Dan Flavin. And in the late '60s, Brazilian Lygia Clark created interactive works that employed brightly colored hoods to control participants' senses: Vision was obscured, sachets of spices over the nose provided olfactory sensation, and shell-like earpieces created the roar of the ocean. In the United States our conceptions of Latin American art often involve some sort of vague stereotype (usually involving folk art or painters such as Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera). But Latin America has long been home to a diverse and thriving art scene - with artists that were often more avant-garde than their U.S. contemporaries. "Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America" at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston was the first United States exhibition to explore the subject. It presented an amazing collection of works that purposefully defied preconceptions, as it explored Latin American art from 1920 to 1970. It was a revelation to revel in.

Órbita 100.7 FM Yeah, you can get jiggy with the Box or the Party, two-step till you drop with KILT or Q-Country, hold your burning Bic aloft to the classic rock on the Arrow, or bang your head to all that Audioslave on KLOL, but if you want to dance, there is no spot on the dial quite like Órbita, FM's home for cumbia, salsa and merengue. Even if you don't speak espaol, the beats on this tropical Spanish station are as intoxicating as a rum punch.

Órbita 100.7 FM Yeah, you can get jiggy with the Box or the Party, two-step till you drop with KILT or Q-Country, hold your burning Bic aloft to the classic rock on the Arrow, or bang your head to all that Audioslave on KLOL, but if you want to dance, there is no spot on the dial quite like Órbita, FM's home for cumbia, salsa and merengue. Even if you don't speak español, the beats on this tropical Spanish station are as intoxicating as a rum punch.

Susan O. Koozin It's tempting to say that the best part of Ted Swindley's Always...Patsy Cline was the music. The show was jammed with hits made famous by the unforgettable singer, one of Nashville's all-time greats. Julia Kay Laskowski played the down-home star in Stages Repertory Theatre's production, and she really sang it Patsy-style, smoky and dark. But as good as the tunes, voice and backup band were, they couldn't hold a candle to the firecracker energy flaming off Susan O. Koozin, who played Louise Seger, Patsy Cline's real-life fan extraordinaire. Koozin burned through her hysterical performance like a woman on fire, turning Swindley's simple musical-lite into a spicy romp of hand-clappin', foot-stompin', hootin', hollerin' and Texas-sized laughs. The show's a must-see for anyone who admires Lone Star ladies of the big-hair/big-heart variety.

Susan O. Koozin It's tempting to say that the best part of Ted Swindley's Always...Patsy Cline was the music. The show was jammed with hits made famous by the unforgettable singer, one of Nashville's all-time greats. Julia Kay Laskowski played the down-home star in Stages Repertory Theatre's production, and she really sang it Patsy-style, smoky and dark. But as good as the tunes, voice and backup band were, they couldn't hold a candle to the firecracker energy flaming off Susan O. Koozin, who played Louise Seger, Patsy Cline's real-life fan extraordinaire. Koozin burned through her hysterical performance like a woman on fire, turning Swindley's simple musical-lite into a spicy romp of hand-clappin', foot-stompin', hootin', hollerin' and Texas-sized laughs. The show's a must-see for anyone who admires Lone Star ladies of the big-hair/big-heart variety.

The Harp
The Harp This Irish-tinged watering hole is a little different from the average Montrose hangout, but that's part of its appeal. Its dark walls, soft lighting and hardwood floors are charming. And there's something pleasantly laid-back about the atmosphere -- maybe it's the dart players tallying up their points or the comfy, wrap-around porch. Maybe it's the fact that denizens have been known to bring in a baby or two. Maybe it's just those cushiony barstools. Can we say heaven?

The Harp This Irish-tinged watering hole is a little different from the average Montrose hangout, but that's part of its appeal. Its dark walls, soft lighting and hardwood floors are charming. And there's something pleasantly laid-back about the atmosphere -- maybe it's the dart players tallying up their points or the comfy, wrap-around porch. Maybe it's the fact that denizens have been known to bring in a baby or two. Maybe it's just those cushiony barstools. Can we say heaven?

The Artery
Photo by Mark Larsen
The Artery Visit the Artery during the day, and it looks at first glance like an enclave for a neighborhood crack dealer. Surrounded by a dense thicket of hackberry trees and a rusting chain-link fence, the lot in the Museum District's residential area is full of rubble. Indeed, works by artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Frank Stella are much more likely to turn up a few blocks away at Houston's more famous sculpture enclave, the Cullen Sculpture Garden. But just as the sun sets and the Cullen goes dark, the Artery comes to life. The rubble -- loads of stone construction materials left on the lot by the previous owner -- takes shape as a series of intricate light sculptures set along winding, wooded paths. You'll find beakers bubbling over with smoke, illuminated ductwork weaving through patterned stacks of slate, and a fireplace enlivened by a fan, a light bulb and fluttering red cellophane. The mastermind behind the Artery, Houston artist Mark Larsen, has opened it to the public for talks and performances since 1987 -- and always free of charge (though donations are appreciated). Veteran patrons might want to check out the newest exhibit: burnished tree branches, half sculpted, half wild, that are bound in rope, blending in with the Artery's natural environment, yet jarring to the senses like captured beasts from a foreign jungle.

The Artery Visit the Artery during the day, and it looks at first glance like an enclave for a neighborhood crack dealer. Surrounded by a dense thicket of hackberry trees and a rusting chain-link fence, the lot in the Museum District's residential area is full of rubble. Indeed, works by artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Frank Stella are much more likely to turn up a few blocks away at Houston's more famous sculpture enclave, the Cullen Sculpture Garden. But just as the sun sets and the Cullen goes dark, the Artery comes to life. The rubble -- loads of stone construction materials left on the lot by the previous owner -- takes shape as a series of intricate light sculptures set along winding, wooded paths. You'll find beakers bubbling over with smoke, illuminated ductwork weaving through patterned stacks of slate, and a fireplace enlivened by a fan, a light bulb and fluttering red cellophane. The mastermind behind the Artery, Houston artist Mark Larsen, has opened it to the public for talks and performances since 1987 -- and always free of charge (though donations are appreciated). Veteran patrons might want to check out the newest exhibit: burnished tree branches, half sculpted, half wild, that are bound in rope, blending in with the Artery's natural environment, yet jarring to the senses like captured beasts from a foreign jungle.

David Rainey in Topdog/Underdog Suzan-Lori Parks's Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog revolves around two brothers who bear the unlikely names of Lincoln and Booth: their father's "idea of a joke." But the names carry hefty metaphorical weight in this play about violent sibling rivalry. And the play's interfamily feud burned especially bright when actor David Rainey stepped on stage in the Alley Theatre's production of the dark drama last winter. Rainey's Lincoln was the most richly textured character of the year. One minute, Rainey's character would brag big-time about his success -- playing an Abe Lincoln who gets assassinated all day long in an arcade exhibit. But the next, he'd fall into a spiral of self-disapproval. Raging against a world that held him down, Rainey's performance was subtle yet forceful and astonishingly empathetic. He filled the stage with an unwavering intellectual and emotional intensity that no other Houston actor could touch this past year.

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