Once Upon a Time

The Kotoske paintings are modest in their ambitions--in fact, their small size and the use of paper in lieu of canvas or board make them little more than studies for paintings. But brought together, their sum is much greater than their parts; these simple works reveal an appealing clarity and intelligence.

Verhelst's sculptures are as dense with imagery and visual elements as Kotoske's paintings are bereft of them. Though he had a minimalist period, as demonstrated at Burns Park, Verhelst was never really a proponent of that movement. And, as his sculptures in Reunion prove, he's by now forgotten everything he might have learned about simplicity. Verhelst's pieces here are crowded with a wide range of materials and images--modeled concrete, rusting steel, weathered wood, graffito decorations in the concrete. The one link these recent pieces have to the work Verhelst produced when he lived here is his continuing interest in vertical forms that recall gothic spires. This is even the case in the floorbound mixed-media sculpture "A Half Circle Begins on the Horizon," which has the distinction of being the only piece here that's wider than it is high.

The last of the three artists in Reunion, local master Mangold, is represented by a group of sculptures from his latest series, the "PTTSAAES." These pieces--shiny tubular zigzags that premiered last year at Mangold's solo show at the Loveland Museum--are good enough to carry the entire show. And that's pretty much what they do. The sculptures are seen by Mangold as a way to record the movement of a "particle traveling through space at an erratic speed" (hence the alphabet-soup abbreviation of the series title).

In "PTTSAAES #9," a sculpture made of welded polished brass tubes that have been lacquered, a soaring, roughly triangular form rises to a height of more than seven feet before falling into a tangle of lines along the ground. But if many of the "PTTSAAES" pieces rise like spikes, others are more clearly horizontal. "PTTSAAES #16," which is made of polished aluminum, seems to float above the ground, an effect created by two roughly horizontal diagonals and a separate element placed on the ground below and in front of them.

In the end, this exhibit was perhaps a better idea than it is a show. My advice is to follow up a visit to Artyard with a trip to Burns Park. That's the best way to understand the artistic union that ultimately led to this Reunion.

Speaking of Burns Park, another sculptor whose work survives there is New York artist Tony Magar. Alone among the Denver Sculpture Symposium artists, Magar got a couple of local commissions from private collectors as a result of his participation in the endeavor. In those cases, he got to construct his work in the more costly but more permanent medium of painted steel. One of those two pieces subsequently was donated to the city. It was removed more than a decade ago from a front lawn on Birch Street in the Hilltop neighborhood and placed in the grass-covered median on University Boulevard between First and Second Avenues.

What brings the Magar piece to mind is the fact that it was inappropriately repainted a few months ago. The sculpture, little more than a simple bar that has been bent into a curve, was first painted a bright red and a shiny black. In the 1980s Mangold was hired to repaint it, and he faithfully re-created Magar's original colors. Then, a few years ago, the sculpture was repainted by the city, and a mistake was made. The red and black of Mangold's second coat had faded to a magenta and gray, and the city unknowingly copied these incorrect shades. It was an honest mistake and one that's easy to understand--which is more than can be said about the new color scheme of pale lilac and dark brown.

The Mayor's Office of Art, Culture and Film has just established a fund and is formulating a plan to repair and maintain the city's large public-art collection. There are more desperate needs in Denver, and many artworks are in a much more dilapidated state. But one of the first things the city should do is to spend the insignificant amount of money it would take to make this Magar right.

Reunion, through October at the Artyard Gallery, 1251 South Pearl Street, 777-3219.

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