Chinese Food for Thought

And Chamberlain's an exciting find: The many tabletop bronze sculptures he displays here, most of them dating from the 1960s and '70s, are spectacular. Chamberlain's typical approach is to create a simple set of forms and then stack them in symmetrical and hieratic arrangements suggestive of Oriental forms. That may seem to reflect the artist's special interest in Asian art--Chamberlain took a sabbatical to the Far East just before retiring from CU. But the real source for these sculptures is American modern art, and though the newest Chamberlain in the show is twenty years old, all of his sculptures look strikingly contemporary.

A good example is "Sentinel," an airy bronze sculpture from 1978 that Chamberlain has adorned with rectilinear cutouts and an inverted curve that suggests the horns of an animal. More purely geometric, but just as modern-looking, is 1969's "Gateway"; in that piece, curved sheets of bronze support the separated halves of a sphere. Almost all of Chamberlain's bronzes have been finished in gorgeous black and brown patinas that complement the modernist simplicity of the artist's forms while linking his work to the bronzes of ancient times.

Fenton, the last of the three participants in West Meets East, is a young artist who's made a big splash locally in the last couple of years with sculptural boxes and constructions that have been widely displayed at both private galleries such as Denver's Artyard and public spaces like the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. Alone among the three artists in this show, Fenton actually lived as an adult for several years in the Far East. But you wouldn't know it by looking; her work seems to have even less of a connection to Asia than does Lobato's or Chamberlain's.

Fenton is represented in West Meets East by the wonderful new installation "Walking on Eggshells," which marks a dramatic change from the work she was doing just a year ago. In a small room specifically created for this installation, Fenton has placed a large, shallow wooden box that has been painted white. The box is filled with hundreds of broken eggshells, and hanging directly above are diaphanous garments made of a flimsy material. Slides by computer-art whiz John Bonath depicting Fenton trudging through the egg shells are projected onto the garments; as the images slowly change, the entire installation is bathed in a beautiful blue light.

The Adventures of the Three Travel Weary Loafers, Mystic Dreams, Majestic Scenes and West Meets East mark the seventh annual effort by the Arvada Center to highlight Asian art. And though the two imports are of limited appeal, the locals really come through, even if their work doesn't quite fit the topic. Maybe next time East should meet West.

The Adventures of the Three Travel Weary Loafers, Mystic Dreams, Majestic Scenes and West Meets East, through April 6 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 431-3939.

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