Dark Humor Lights Up Helen Altman's Fiery Works at Moody Gallery

Dark Humor Lights Up Helen Altman's Fiery Works at Moody Gallery
moodygallery.com

It's like she's psychic. The nature and fire imagery in Helen Altman's show, done way before the rash of Texas wildfires, was nothing if not prescient. Of course, it's not like it came out of nowhere -- Altman has an abiding interest in the natural world, and she's done drawings with blowtorches before, as well as building sculptures from glowing fake fireplace logs. I've never been that big on Altman's 2D work, but when she starts bringing in the 3D elements, things get interesting. In the back gallery at Moody, Line of Fire (2011), Altman's wall painting of a beaver dam, has a stand of stripped-down trees in its background.

Flickering, flame-like Christmas lights are attached to the wall and clustered over the painted trunks, seemingly setting them alight. Meanwhile, Two Deer Reflecting (2011) is a gorgeously black-humored work, a vintage lamp with a colorfully hokey forest scene on its shade. It's one of those cylindrical lamps with a rotating insert, which Altman altered by cutting out tiny flame shapes. As the inner cylinder rotates against the light, fire seems to rage through the tranquil forest. Vinyl letters on the wall behind it read: Gordon said to Enid, "Living well is the best revenge." Enid looked up and replied, "Burning down their cabin is a close second."

Through October 15. Moody Gallery, 2815 Colquitt St., 713-526-9911.


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