Capsule Reviews

Stephen Lapthisophon As a kid, the enormous cardboard box that came with the new refrigerator offered a world of palatial and spaceship possibility. As an adult, it is a throwaway, recyclable or, for the many who have fallen on hard times, an extremely economical and available form of refuge. Lapthisophon's room-scale installation at the Mac excavates the manifold architectural possibilities of cardboard, disinterring from the flatness of its folding walls a fullness of signification. Lining floors, molding walls and creating a short path by way of open and obstructed space, Lapthisophon's cardboard room makes a social commentary on homelessness while forging an awareness of the formal qualities of cardboard as creative material. With walls hingeless and wavering back and forth, the room brings to mind the ad-hoc architecture of the Russian Constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov circa 1925. The brown paper walls are barriers and deflectors of light and sound. Yellow, green and blue lights refract in deadpan fashion as luminescent rays bounce between planes of cardboard. The monotonic tones of Lapthisophon's recordings similarly ricochet off of rough-and-ready supports. A man's voice recites meaningless numbers and words in a loop, offering a moving backdrop of technocratic white noise suggestive of the "invisible hand" of capital lurking behind the plight of homelessness. The pictures, newspaper clippings and photocopied excerpts of texts from Freud and Bachelard pinned on the wall are conceptually potent as they bring together the esoterica of philosophical "dwelling" and the pragmatics of real dwelling. Ultimately, though, these intellectual pin-ups aren't nearly as sexy as the space in which they hang. Through March 26 in the New Works Space at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave., 214-953-1212. (Charissa N. Terranova)

Twang: Contemporary Sculpture From Texas A motley mix of stuff, Twang is certain to rile your standing aesthetic, shake your sense of Texas art and hustle you into the realm of the local absurd. It is a many-headed demonstration of the latest incarnation of "sculpture." Jessica Halonen and Michael Powers deploy the trope of verisimilitude in the gallery. Halonen's painted aluminum faux paper airplanes, "Flutter" (2004), lie harum-scarum on the floor, linking the two rooms of the gallery space. Powers plays on the connection between voyeurism and bodily fluid at the gym. His "Perspiration Destination" (2005), a three-dimensional, full-size slice of gym life replete with orange water coolers and ersatz dirty towels, is installed mid-wall in the second room. Sharon Engelstein and Paul Fleming pay homage to the extra-terrestrial. Engelstein's small and bulbous plastic creatures--"Twins," "Buster," "Bumbry" and "Moe"--offer a family genealogy of the Michelin Man in three-dimensional form. With "Field," Fleming has scattered on the floor white and green lunar geodes made from gypsum and resin. And then there are those artists, such as Franco Mondini-Ruiz, who see sculptural form everywhere in the walkaday world around them. Reminiscent of Claes Oldenburg's "Mouse Museum" (1965-'77), Mondini-Ruiz has amassed sundry things, from brownies to a cup of coffee, all of which are brown. With this piece, "Sell Me Something Brown" (2004), the artist wears his object fetish on his shoulder. Twang melds the banal with the fantastic. You'll feel more like you're strolling the aisles of a surreal Wal-Mart than perusing art in a gallery. Through April 9 at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave., 214-953-1212. Reviewed this week. (C.T.)

Vasco Araújo The most striking quality of Vasco Araújo's video showing in the Project Room at Conduit is its references to two related strains of thought, style and ideological practice--namely classicism and fascism. Running in a 15-minute loop, "Hipolito" unfolds according to the interaction between disparate visual and sound narratives. The video opens with a young boy dressed in a Mocidade Portuguesa (Portuguese Youth) uniform. He plays a pipe while walking along the ledge of a monolithic building. The building is an example of high-fascist architecture, built in a vocabulary of emphatic yet rarefied classicism. Even stronger than the perhaps unwitting allusions to Manet's famous "Fifer" of 1866 are the complex references to classicism both modern and ancient. While viewers become voyeurs of a pas de deux between the boy and a young girl, also wearing a uniform, they hear an excerpt from Euripides' Hippolytus, an ancient Greek tragedy. Outside the project room is another video titled "Duettino," showing on a free-standing monitor. Running in a two-minute loop, "Duettino" shows a man at the center of a verdant field reciting a portion of a text from Mozart's Don Giovanni. With lips and cheeks carefully rouged and wearing a ruffled shirt in antique white, the actor, Araújo himself, plays the parts of Don Giovanni and Zerlina while the surrounding landscape vertiginously rotates at high speed. Araújo juxtaposes sound and movement, time and space, in order to play up the roiling dramatic humors of classical, operatic and political theater. His touch is poignant yet confounding, especially because of the medium of video. Through March 26 in the Project Room at Conduit Gallery, 1626-C Hi Line Drive, 214-939-0064. (Charissa N. Terranova)

Frank Stella: Painting in Three Dimensions For what Frank Stella's large and raucous sculpture from the 1980s lacks in formal triumph, it makes up for in revealing the complexity of the artist's rocky road of development. Having made seminal paintings in the late '50s and an array of more successfully bombastic sculpture in the late '90s, Stella shows that losing one's creative mojo is not the end of the world--it can return just as easily as it departed. Exhibited in the basement gallery of the Nasher, the jauntily colored tangles of aluminum and fiberglass are the results of Stella's continued transfiguration of the Greenbergian dictum on modernism and medium specificity. With its brightly colored multidimensional layers of steel bolted together and hung on the wall, "Diepholz II" (1982) hovers somewhere between painting and sculpture. The problem is not so much with the equivocation of the piece but rather with its cup-runneth-over bluster. It's too colorful, unbalanced and comes across as intellectually vapid. Far different from the sculpture are the prints, the "Sinjerli Variations" (1977). Containing color diffused by white lines, the offset circles of these prints are much more convincing than the screaming and jagged forms of the painting-cum-sculpture that similarly hang on the walls. Through April 3 at the Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora St., 214-922-1200. Reviewed March 10. (C.T.)

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