Women's Work

Christine Bisetto and Helen Altman overcome the trappings of gender to tackle bigger issues

It's Altman's use of large scale that amplifies the shakier territory in her work. But if the grandness of Altman's vision is her biggest hurdle, the relative smallness of Bisetto's works the opposite way. For Ace at the Mulcahy Modern Gallery, Bisetto displays 13 pieces that all use items associated with home life, domesticity or materials of "crafts." For her "dot series," Bisetto takes the small pieces of paper discarded from a paper hole-puncher and adheres them to the sticky side of transparent tape. Her "string series" uses latex-paint-covered hole punches that she stitches together in a series along a thread, much like a popcorn garland or a candy necklace. Throughout, her overall color palette favors the pastel.

But the very quaintness of the work disarms you. It's difficult to tell what sort of work Bisetto has crafted. Part painting, part sculpture, part multimedia construction, Bisetto has intimately fashioned objects that defy conventions. "Eggplant" uses old library card-catalog cards dipped in deep purple latex and stacked in a precarious, oblong structure that has the off-balance form of an aubergine. "Boxed"--plastic boxes filled with dried watercolor paint--has the ordered arrangement and chromatic softness of a Clinique cosmetic display but is articulated in a manner that begs you to consider its meaning while remaining elusive. And the tape and colored hole-punch constructions couldn't be more fey if they were paper hats, yet have the eerie, organic imbroglio of wasp's nests or dusty cobwebs. They're curious to look at, but you don't want to get too close.

Stacked: Bisetto's "Tower" uses painting's
color-field approach and plots it in three
Stacked: Bisetto's "Tower" uses painting's color-field approach and plots it in three dimensions.


Christine Bisetto's Ace runs through October 13 at Mulcahy Modern Gallery. Call 214-948-9595.

Helen Altman's My Best Eggs runs through October 2 at Dunn and Brown Contemporary. Call 214-521-4322.

To her credit, Bisetto recognizes that her histrionics are best served by these smaller objects. Admittedly, it could be their very intimacy that catches you off guard and compels you to read more into them--we tend not to expect much from objects so slight. But it's better than the alternative. As we pass the two-thirds mark into this first year of the new millennium, cultural life feels as though it's teetering on a precipice just as wide as the one that kicked off the '90s, if not more so. But thanks to minds not tainted or hung up on the culture wars of yore, fresher takes on the dilemmas of art and ideas are being forged, some persuasive, some less so. And if Christine Bisetto and Helen Altman have attained only modest success here, at least it's a sign that minds are taking an active role in determining what direction we're moving in, rather than merely waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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