The book is dying. Kindle is ascendant. Bookstores are going down the drain. You've read all that, yet it's possible to see a very different, possibly brighter future for the spines, pages, ink, and glue that once warehoused all human knowledge. For her show Overload, Houston photographer Cara Barer must have hit a dozen yard sales to buy up old encyclopedias and other books. She then folds, tears, shreds, dyes, and otherwise arranges their pages in a manner thoroughly unsuited to reading. In her carefully lit studio portraits, the pulpy new creations can look like Georgia O'Keeffe flowers, butterflies, bees' nests, food, or bodily organs. Some volumes appear to have been soaked and dyed, so they dry out completely red or purple. (Though the Manhattan yellow pages came that way.) Set on edge, its covers yanked like a lobster's protective shell, one tangled tome resembles the cross-section of a brain, its pages reaching and looping like synapses. Though radically transformed, there's still an epistemic quality to Barer's mottled library: We commit to print what we know (or imagine); and they retain for us (and our descendants) all the wisdom we wish to preserve for the ages. CDs and hard drives and even the servers that drive the mighty cloud all have a finite life-span. Barer's books may outlast them all, even if they can't be read.
Foster/White Gallery, 220 Third Ave. S., 622-2833, fosterwhite.com. Free. 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Sat. Ends Aug. 27.