In the Air

Folkestad's Playing for Time crowds the room with a group of cagelike objects that have been constructed from frames of unfinished lumber. The walls of the cages, which are all open at one point or another, have been filled in with aluminum window screening. By placing a bar at the top of the screens, Folkestad creates a bulge just like the kind children can leave in a screen door. Some of the cages are empty, like the one topped by a wire-mesh construction and surrounded by four troughs filled with felt balls. Other cages contain objects such as a chair on concrete rockers, a ball of string and many other elements, all of which refer to the passage of time.

A central element in the Folkestad installation is the row of "twins in a cradle" made of rolled and folded gray washcloths. They may be meant to suggest exactly what the title says: twin babies in a cradle. But you don't have to be Sigmund Freud to see the female sexual imagery suggested by the forms--and the twins are mounted waist high, no less.

Like all of Folkestad's work, Playing for Time is magnificently crafted. The panels that make up the cage frames, though joined informally with hinges, have been constructed with fine woodworking techniques including pegging and through-mortising. One element that really shows off Folkestad's meticulousness is the pile of transparent dice she presents atop a vertical form made of wax and steel. The dice, which she hand-carved from bars of glycerin soap, are masterfully detailed, and they're a testament to Folkestad's concern for technical accomplishment.

While Folkestad has filled the floor and left the walls bare, Carlos Fresquez takes the opposite approach in Lagrima/Teardrop. Fresquez has painted scenes on all four walls, but they're barely visible because he has employed pale shades of cream, gray and beige. On the painted walls, Fresquez has hung black-and-white paintings of figures and flowers along with small pencil drawings, many with religious or philosophical themes.

Lagrima/Teardrop is partially concerned with the tradition of pano art--pen or pencil drawings on handkerchiefs whose themes are related to what Fresquez has called "raza life." The style was actually developed by Hispanic prison inmates, but Fresquez has greatly expanded on the tradition. And though the pano pieces are but one part of this exhibit, the image of jail is a familiar one here. For instance, the gallery's back wall, which is the first to confront the viewer, features the word "Lagrima" in old English script, placed next to a black, white and amber painting of a jailed Hispanic man.

A compelling aspect of Lagrima/Teardrop is the way Fresquez mixes his own sophisticated painting style with a pointedly naive pictorial approach that apes the touching style of the self-taught prisoners. He has filled the room with symbol-laden images from the Hispanic community, ranging from lowrider cars and zoot suits to religious emblems. Even Fresquez's predominantly black-and-white palette is symbolic, meant to convey the limited materials available to the original pano artists.

Fortunately, the problem of limited materials--or exhibitions--is not something Denver's gallery-going public will need to deal with in the foreseeable future.

Neltje: Breaking Boundaries, through November 2 at 1/1 Gallery, 1715 Wazee Street, 298-9284. Debra Walker: New Works on Canvas and Paper, through November 2 at CSK Gallery, 1637 Wazee Street, 436-9236.

Playing for Time and Lagrima/Teardrop, through October 13 at Edge Gallery, 3658 Navajo Street, 477-7173.

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