Tucked away in the woodsy northeast region of Texas is the Tyler Museum of Art, a small and pleasant space that for the past year or so, under the curatorship of Caleb Bell, has been hosting smart, with-it exhibitions highlighting deserving Texas artists. From helping organize the exhibition of a recently restored mural by John Biggers, to curating a show of paintings by Forth Worth artist Daniel Blagg, to a summertime-themed group show of works by Shannon Cannings, Leigh Merrill, and Kelly O’Connor, Bell has been making an effort to connect Tyler to the Texas art world at large.
The show currently on view at the museum, Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman, is quiet and contemplative, featuring works created by the Fort Worth-based artist throughout her career, particularly from 1992 to today. The show is organized around pieces from Altman’s oeuvre that specifically depict or comment on the various facets of nature as we humans know and experience it: wildlife, domesticated animals, hunting, the outdoors, the fragility of life, and the volatility of fire all come into play in the exhibition.
Another of Altman’s hallmarks is toeing the line between perfectly crafted objects and things that are well-made but just slightly off. She writes:
“I am also interested in mimics and replicas. It is a happy moment for me when I can create objects that are simultaneously convincing and yet blatantly absurd in their obvious artificiality.”
Altman has been due for a large-scale institutional presentation of her work — it’s been a little while since she’s had a big non-profit show in Texas. For me, this one made all of Altman’s practice click into place — to fully appreciate where she is now, I needed to know where she came from. And whether you love her work or not, this show might just change the way you see it.
Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman is on view at the Tyler Museum of Art through June 3, 2018.