Helen Altman

Talley Dunn Gallery
June 15 – August 10, 2019

Oasis incorporates found objects and assemblage to create a space apart. With insightful attention to the everyday, Altman’s subtle interventions draw unexpected connections that evoke personal associations and appeal to both humor and the sublime.

The exhibition reflects Altman’s enduring interest in flora and fauna. Paintings in acrylic on old schoolhouse chalkboards connect images of beaver dams, brush piles, and dark woodlands to familiar schoolroom objects. The sticks of chalk become sculpted branches and stones: in crossing the boundary between illusionistic depiction and real space, these works evoke lived experience and layers of memory. Oasis also features a new flock of Altman’s sought-after wire bird sculptures. Each wire bird captures the posture and attitude of a real bird, perched on sculptural manzanita branches. Some are poised for flight while others seem contemplative and watchful.

Several of the works in Oasis use found objects and mimicry to baffle the viewer’s expectations. In the sculpture Last Supper (2), an outsized sandwich of white bread and bologna totters on an old cafeteria tray. Its visual hyperbole is tragicomic and unsettling, but the pillowy bread appeases the senses. Meanwhile, two sculptures adopt glass bottles as vessels and magnifiers for miniature drawings and photographs, taking on the fragmentary visual language of a curio cabinet or scrapbook. At the center of the exhibition in the sculpture Oasis, a vintage water fountain. In the hallowed lineage of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain and Bruce Nauman’s Self-Portrait as a FountainOasis makes a simple intervention in the readymade form of the water fountain, again asking where the separation between art and life begins and ends.

Altman received her BFA in 1981 and her MA in 1986 from the University of Alabama, followed by her MFA in 1989 from the University of North Texas. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art, the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and the Dallas Museum of Art. She has participated in numerous museum exhibitions including solo exhibitions at the Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, TX; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; the Glassell School of Art, Houston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Grace Museum, Abilene. She currently lives and works in Fort Worth, Texas.


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