A R T L E T T E R
The Timely Magazine of Art
|#11||<!>previous/ next>!> Artletter index||August 15, 1995|
Helen Altman at Hiram Butler Gallery ends 9/2 Altman gives commonplace objects stunningly precise new metaphoric meanings: turkey=egg=fetus, fridge=incubator=oven, quilt=display case, millet=snow, eggs=seeds. Seed Trees I-III are like spruces in the snow, resigned and weary, bearing up their burdens on thick trunks and heavy crossed feet, offering up their seeds with a mother's generosity to the birds in Winter. In Phoenix a small old fridge barely contains a frozen turkey folded like a fetus or a very large egg, ready to emerge from the flames of the oven reincarnated as a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey awaits its rebirth through being eaten, literally fueling other organisms with its own body. Snowman echoes the hot/cold theme of Phoenix. Eggs of American Birds neatly links imagery (eggs) and form (quilt), managing to suggest both cozy nest and freezer display case simultaneously. Wire Bird is full of compressed energy (seeds), like a wire popcorn popper ready to begin popping. The old fridge, campy fake firelogs, and dated textbook illustrations evoke a sense of the recent past, perhaps Altman's childhood in the 1960's.-B.D. Paine Webber Collection at the MFAH 9/? Many good individual works amid the usual bombastic expressionism and sterile appropriation of the 80's. In Ed Ruscha's The End obituary headlines announce the absolute last frames of an old horror movie that we've seen too many times (Life?, Art?). We are caught between frames, stuck here at this neverending end in an eerie suspension of a decent, final closure. Ruscha gets all this across with an elegant economy of means which is in sharp contrast to works by Chia, Clemente, Borofsky, and others which say nothing with a great deal of impotent flailing and thrashing. Warhol's Cagney neatly undermines both painting and printmaking. Diebenkorn's Table and Chair exactly recalls the feeling of 1964, using the figurative tradition without nostalgia. Richter's kooky Helen has come unstuck from the family photo album and wandered into a monochrome field.-B.D. Jim Pirtle Installation at Zocalo Theater ? Damp polyester shirts hanging from the patio ceiling, with or without paintings on them. Also damp polyester shirts made into clothing for an assortment of broken figurative lamps, scattered about on tables and elsewhere. Admirable for its edginess, if nothing else.-B.D. Address letters to: Bill Davenport, 801 Tulane St., Houston TX 77007 Mail subscriptions $25/year. Look for Artletter 12 on September 1.