You'll Dig Joshua Goode's Archeological Show at Darke Gallery

Joshua Goode is a big kid at heart. The Fort Worth artist has a silly sense of humor, plays with toys and is boundlessly imaginative. Just look at his current show up at Darke Gallery, better off temporarily known as the Contemporary Alternative Natural History Museum.

The Detering Street gallery is filled with "artifacts" "discovered" by Goode during an "excavation" of its street, the story goes. These artifacts are attributed to the Ancient Aurora Rhome civilization in North Texas, and, according to the gallery's fantastic release, "possess attributes of objects found in ancient Egyptian, Mycenaean, Etruscan tombs and of toys from the 1980s." Love it.

These artifacts are unholy combinations of toys -- there's a horse with a man's legs where its head should be, a tiger's body with a horse's rump for a head, and so on -- and are given the most ridiculous names (The Legorse, Asshtar). These chimeras -- all painted the same shimmery gold -- are placed under bell jars and accompanied by a label describing the figurine and its significance to the Aurora Rhome civilization. Goode is fully committed to this bit of make-believe.

The fun doesn't stop there. Gallery goers are able to participate in the excavation, too, thanks to a wooden rectangular structure filled with salt and buried figurines that you can dig for. Once you find one, you can identify and document it by placing it on a shelf underneath its appropriate label.

Accompanying these figures are a whopping 40 small-scale paintings that Goode calls "Auroran Miniatures." These depict anything from fossils and ghosts to oil fields and owls and are all done in a loose, collage-like style that seems to evoke memories of the artist. If you detect a strong child-like quality to them in their crudeness (and, in one case, penciled hearts), Goode's six-year-old daughter in fact worked with him on these.

The show is titled "Origin of Myth," and it is a fascinating exploration of one man's personal mythology as he ravages his past and present for material -- and gives it new meaning in the process. The sprawling show presents an impressive range of skill, too, as everything on display, including the beautiful wooden pedestals that support the bell jars and the interactive dig, is the result of Goode's touch. It all makes for a unique show unlike anything you've ever experienced.

"Joshua Goode: Origin of Myth" at Darke Gallery, 320 B Detering Street, runs now through March 9, with an artist talk on closing day at 1 p.m. For more information, call 713-542-3802 or visit www.darkegallery.com.

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