Art Notes

Splendid Sargent, Extraordinary Cattelan: From the grand portraits of an American expat to a way-out intervention by a contemporary international, March manifests the extreme and extraordinary in our art scene. Celebrate %26#8220;An American Season%26#8221; at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, with a terrific trio: %26#8220;Sargent and the Sea%26#8221; (through May 23), %26#8220;Prendergast in Italy%26#8221; (through May 9) and %26#8220;Houston%26#8217;s Sargents%26#8221; (through May 9). American art curator Emily Neff hits the trifecta, but the one that stands as the punctuation mark is her exhibition devoted to the Sargents in hometown collections %26#8212; the greatest cache of any American city after New York and Boston. The Prendergast exhibition also reveals this painter as a proto modernist, while %26#8220;Sargent and the Sea%26#8221; provides new insights into one of the giants of American art ... Not to be outdone, The Menil Collection mounts the brilliant, provocative %26#8220;Maurizio Cattelan,%26#8221; curated by departing Franklin Sirmans (now with LACMA). This exhibition goes way beyond artworks presented in a single gallery. You%26#8217;ll want to navigate the museum like a contestant in a scavenger hunt, to discover Cattelan%26#8217;s sometimes shocking interventions, from the rooftop to the medieval, surrealist and contemporary galleries (through August 15).

FotoFest Focus: Bring on the Americans %26#8212;%26nbsp;and the Texans. That%26#8217;s the rallying cry of FotoFest 2010, %26#8220;Contemporary U.S. Photography.%26#8221; Here are the 10 shows we%26#8217;ll be checking out, starting with four organized by FotoFest. For 2010, artistic director Wendy Watriss has tapped three independent curators (including former MFAH curator Gilbert Vicario, who returns to organize %26#8220;Medianation: Performing for the Screen%26#8221;) plus an entire curatorial team from Los Angeles County Museum of Art%26#8217;s photography department (for %26#8220;Assembly: Eight Emerging Photographers from Southern California%26#8221;). Two other FotoFest-organized offerings evoke the shifting fortunes of America: %26#8220;The Road to Nowhere%26#8221; and %26#8220;Whatever Was Splendid: New American Photographs.%26#8221; At the participating spaces, must-sees are the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston%26#8217;s %26#8220;Ruptures and Continuities: Photography Made after 1960 from the MFAH Collection%26#8221; curated by 2008 hire Yasufumi Nakamori; DiverseWorks%26#8217; solo for Allison Hunter, who introduces a new video in her ongoing, otherworldly saga about the planet%26#8217;s fauna; and four top gallery views for Texans: Spacetaker founder David Brown at Darke Gallery revealing our town via a series of lenticular prints that squash the space-time continuum; Beaumont native son Keith Carter at McMurtrey Gallery with classic black-and-whites in %26#8220;Shangri-La%26#8221;; Casey Williams%26#8217; heroic color abstractions snapped at the Houston Ship Channel at Rudolph Projects/ArtScan Gallery; and brilliant duo Jeff Shore and Jon Fisher at McClain Gallery, cooking up another high-tech/low-tech presentation (March 12 through April 25; participating spaces%26#8217; dates may vary; complete exhibition listings,

Girls Gone Wild/Epic Abstract Painters: Our vote for fave guerilla show of FotoFest goes to the duo of Nancy Douthey and Jacinda Russell at Texas Gallery; the pair present stills from their Thelma %26amp; Louise%26#8211;type adventure to the wilds of the American West, where they communed with earthworks by the big boys of American art, including Robert Smithson%26#8217;s Spiral Jetty (March 13 %26#8211;%26nbsp;April 17) ... At McClain Gallery, senior master David Row is the tamer of the curve (March 25 %26#8211; April 29); his opening night on March 25 includes a book signing for Richard Polksy%26#8217;s latest, I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) ... At Barbara%26nbsp; Davis Gallery, Saatchi %26#8220;Sensation%26#8221; finalist Mie Olise is held over, in an amalgamation of painting, installation and video that adds architecture to the dialogue%26nbsp; %26#8212; as well as heroic flying ships (through March 27).

Persuasive Public Art: Stay tuned next month for a roundup of all the new public art that%26#8217;s propagating, including Aurora Robson%26#8217;s solar-powered alien-life-form sculpture at Rice and an overview of Houston Arts Alliance%26#8217;s latest endeavors. (Hint: an update on the Carter Ernst and Paul Kittelson%26#8217;s pop-influenced piece for Hobby Airport; where you%26#8217;ll see a new Luca Buvoli and what%26#8217;s coming along the bayou by a pair of prominent internationals) ... Artists Natali Leduc, Sandi Seltzer Bryant, Nicola Parente and John Berry transform bikes to raise funds for MS; see their creations and 20 more works by Houston notables at Discovery Green in %26#8220;Art Bike 2010,%26#8221; presented by National Multiple Sclerosis Society: Lone Star (March 22 %26#8211; April 25).

Up-and-Comers/Heavy Metal: Catch the new Core Fellow crop at the Glassell School of Art and see if you can spot the next Whitney Biennial talent (March 5 %26#8211;%26nbsp;April 16), then head to the Blaffer Gallery for the %26#8220;School of Art Annual Student Exhibition%26#8221; (through March 13), followed by a must-see show for UH MFA grads (March 27 %26#8211; April 24) ... At Lawndale Art Center, check out a collaboration between L.A.-based installationist Ariane Roesch and painter Jonathan Leach, as well as Joe Havel and Chuck Ivy%26#8217;s avant-garde %26#8220;Dirty Secrets from the Cataract Cinema%26#8221; (both, March 12 %26#8211;%26nbsp;April 17) ... Meanwhile, at Gallery Sonja Roesch (mom of Ariane), heavy-metal man John Clement makes an impact in %26#8220;Eye Candy%26#8221; (March 13 %26#8211;%26nbsp;April 24).

Bird Man and Woman: Avians inspire Billy Hassell (up now at Meredith Long %26amp; Company) and Heather Bause at Bering %26amp; James (through March 6) ... Hurry to see the great and powerful H.J. Bott at Anya Tish Gallery in %26#8220;Three in 3D,%26#8221; with Garland Fielder and George Grochocki (through March 6).

French Connection: Head to Daniel-Kayne%26#8217;s studio (2300 McKinney #403) for a special showing of French mid-career sculptress Veronique Chalandar, featuring semi-figural works from her %26#8220;Totems%26#8221; and %26#8220;Originelles%26#8221; series (March 26, through the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts, 713.822.2060; part of the French Cultures Festival; Follow our blog on for weekly art picks.
Image above: Jacinda Russell %26amp; Nancy Douthey%26#8217;s "(A still from) a dizzying hot pink prom dress whirling at Spiral Jetty," 2009, at Texas Gallery; Credit: Courtesy of the artists and Texas Gallery
Image below: John Singer Sargent%26#8217;s "Madame Ram%26#243;n Subercaseaux," circa 1880-1881, at MFAH; Credit: Fayez Sarofim Collection

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