A R T   L E T T E R

The Timely Magazine of Art

#12 <previous/ next> Artletter index September 1, 1995

Letters: Helen Altman at Hiram Butler                          ends 9/15

Your review of Helen Altman's show (see AL 11) completely stymied me.
How you extrapolate what you did from a frozen turkey in a refrigerator is
COMPLETELY beyond me. To me the piece stank of half-baked graduate
school ideas. The very fact that you were able to pull as many of the "big"
metaphors out of it as you did (life, death, rebirth, and regeneration)
testifies more to your imagination than hers. Altman is trying to move into
unexplored territiory which is most certainly laudable. Her refrigerator and
seed trees were markedly flimsy when compared to her over-produced
snowman and egg quilt (not to ignore those awful smoke drawings). In those
cases she knows what she's trying to accomplish- having done similar
things before, and probably realizes herself that they come out dead. I'm
glad to see the refrigerator and seed trees as new directions for Altman,
but as finished pieces in themselves, they deserve none of the praise you've
heaped on them.- David Aylsworth

El Salvador 1980-present at Lawndale                                        10/14

Fabulous woodcarvings by Don Napoleon Alberto mix naive crudity, classical
figure sculpture, and fantasy. In one, a huge (for a wood carving)
dinosaur/dragon crushes the scales of justice and the international
agreement on human rights with clawed human feet. His spines are bullets,
his teeth are real teeth. His pose is awkward and hideous as his neck is
severed by a the  machete of popular revolt. So strightforward that you've
gotta believe it. Estela Solis' naive-style tourist painting Entrega De Armas
(the handing over of arms) depicts a crowd of tiny people with tiny machine
guns  in a cute, vividly colored utopian village, over which hovers a white
dove of peace, and nearby the white helicopter of the United Nations.-B.D.

Poussin at the MFAH	11/12

These seething masses of embroiled humanity need only dialog balloons and
$!*%$%#$!!!'s to slide seamlessly into the contemporary art-comix.  Stories
of heroism, conflict, romance and passion require a complex graphic
language of gestures, spotlights and shadows to convey their drama,
whenever they are told, whether it's the Romans vs. the Sabines or the
X-Men vs. Galactus. Their  obvious artificiality is a strength rather than a
weakness, for these are fantasies, requiring a suspension of disbelief.-B.D.


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