Road Kill

While the Traveling Show has many sculptures to recommend it, that's surely not the case with paintings. Those who have come through with interesting works compose a very short list: the little-known Donnea Simms, along with by-now household names Steven Altman and Cameron Jones.

Simms has fashioned a beautiful combination of expressionism and geometry with "In It Together," an abstract oil-and-wax diptych. On the left side of the frame Simms has painted jagged black lines over a white color field, then partially painted them out. On the right side she gives us an all-over abstraction in streaky brown. Altman also combines gestures and lines in "Untitled (White #7)," a mixed media on canvas that's consistent with past paintings by the artist. As the title implies, the piece is mostly white with abstract scribbles and smears in black and red. Altman is, hands-down, one of the most important abstract painters in the region, and the Traveling Show is lucky to have him.

The organizers are equally fortunate to have "Sibyl," an oil on canvas from Jones, who has a history of taking old-master paintings, shattering their compositions and putting the pieces back together in what amounts to a bold cubism. In "Sibyl," Jones uses forms vaguely suggestive of puzzle pieces that are actually details from a famous painting by Michelangelo. Jones has been one of the most artistically ambitious painters in town, so it should come as no surprise that she already has left paintings like "Sibyl" behind and is now making heroically scaled representational works.

Printmaking gets generally short shrift in the Traveling Show, which is odd given the sophistication of the medium in the area. But printmakers Brian Comber and Amy Guadagnoli contribute three of the most memorable pieces in the exhibit. Comber's "Hope Attracts Joy" consists of a pair of mirror-image etchings whose top halves are black and whose bottom halves reveal what look like bullets flying in opposite directions. Guadagnoli is represented by a pair of magnificent, full-color woodblock prints. "Swandance" and "Cocoons" recall in their palettes the great Japanese woodblocks that remain the standard by which the medium is measured. However, Guadagnoli's forms are purely abstract, reflecting none of the pictorial content that was an essential component of their Japanese forebears.

Many changes have taken place lately within the Alternative Arts Alliance. Rumor has it that the annual Left Bank Festival will not be held this year, and there have even been discussions about changing the Open Show (and therefore the Traveling Show) from an annual to a biennial event. So since things are in a state of flux, here's a suggestion: Instead of sponsoring a show with room for everybody, how about one that would showcase the best the region has to offer? As things stand today, the Open Show is such a laughingstock that many of the city's most important contemporary artists no longer enter it. Demanding a little quality along with all the equality would ensure that both the Open Show and the Traveling Show will serve the truly talented artists of Denver--not just the petulant dilettantes who thus far have crowded so many of them out.

10th Annual Alternative Arts Alliance Traveling Show, through May 18 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 431-3939.

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