In his show of new acrylic paintings at Devin Borden Gallery, Todd Hebert presents subjects that are comically lowbrow and adolescent -- a jack-o'-lantern candy bucket, a snowman, bubbles, a baseball. But for all their childlike connotations, Hebert's acrylics don't come off as overly nostalgic or predictably sentimental. The snowman looms almost sinisterly, taking up the majority of the canvas in one piece. The jack-o'-lantern, which shows up in several paintings, is in the shadows in one, the telltale eyes, nose, and mouth of the pumpkin barely visible in the near-total darkness. And the baseball is all by its lonesome, soaring through the nighttime air to some unseen mitt.
These objects seem to be picked not based so much on a specific memory or connection, but the challenges in bringing them to life and creating their near likeness. The show is titled "Rhythm," and Hebert definitely seems to be playing with movement and momentum with his spherical subjects. Many of his paintings depict the objects suspended in mid-flight. You can sense them moving -- the sharply focused baseball hurling through its trajectory over a soft, romantic cityscape in a painting of remarkable photographic quality; the shiny, translucent bubbles waiting to pop or be popped as they lazily float on by; the awkward flight of the plastic jack o' lantern bucket before it crashes to the ground, as it inevitably will.
Other subjects are in repose, and Hebert uses this opportunity to play with perspective and keep us on our toes a little bit.
In "Moon," for instance, a faint, blurred-out snowman fills the canvas, illuminated by a sharply focused moon in the upper left corner. Everything's off balance -- the snowman seems impossibly big, while the moon impossibly small. In "Ball and Jack o' Lantern," a baseball lies in front of the black-and-orange bucket, nothing really out of the ordinary except that the baseball rests at the edge of the canvas, while the bottom of the bucket lies below at sights unseen, throwing things off.
With matter-of-fact titles like "Jack o' Lantern With Bubbles" and "Ball with Lights" and common subjects, Hebert's quiet paintings may come across as mere representations. And yet these all-too-familiar items become new, strange, humorous, creepy, striking and, in a different way than already described, even moving.
"Todd Hebert: Rhythm" is at the Devin Borden Gallery, 3917 Main, now through July 10. For more information, call 713-529-2700 or visit the gallery's Web site.
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