Changing Scenes

Cramer also dispenses with details in the marvelous acrylic on canvas "County Cork III," substituting splashes of color and blended smears of paint for literal elements. The effect is to transform the Irish countryside into a blaze of fall colors, which in this case have been stretched to include pink and blue in addition to the expected red, yellow and orange.

These Cramer landscapes have their origins in her sporting pictures, in which they served as mere backdrops for horses and riders. In the last couple of years, though, she's allowed these backgrounds to come to the fore, and they're a welcome addition to her ever-increasing repertoire.

Smack dab in the middle of the Cramer show but on display at 1/1 only through this weekend is a group of sculptural scale models by nine local artists. The artists were asked by an ad hoc committee of the Mayor's Commission on Art, Culture and Film to submit proposals for a new sculpture to be erected in Burns Park. That triangular park is the gateway to Denver's Hilltop neighborhood, dotted with trees and defined by the busy streets that bound it--Colorado Boulevard, Alameda Avenue and Leetsdale Drive. The tentative plan is to add as many as five new sculptures to the park--one a year for the next five years. They would join the several large modernist sculptures that already reside there, the weather-beaten legacy of the Denver Sculpture Symposium held there in 1968.

Those older sculptures haven't fared well at their Burns location. Originally, nine painted plywood sculptures were erected at the park, but since they were initially intended to be only temporary, four were removed almost immediately. The remaining five stood for decades until one of them, Dean Fleming's "Magic Cube," was deemed irreparable by the city and was demolished in 1995. Then, this past summer, Roger Kotoske's untitled bright-red sculpture of three joined cubes was set on fire by vandals and the charred fragment subsequently removed. An insurance settlement may allow for reconstruction of the Kotoske, or, in a less desirable outcome, the artist may be asked to create an entirely new piece.

This leaves only three of the nine originals: the black-and-red Wilbert Verhelst, the white-and-yellow Angelo DiBenedetto (now swathed in hazard fencing) and the black Tony Magar. All possible effort should be made to preserve these pieces, but that's not what's planned. Instead, the three survivors plus the Kotoske--and any of the newer pieces now being auditioned at 1/1--are to be temporary only and will be removed after a prescribed period of nine years. What a terrible idea.

The threat of eventual demolition has fortunately not deterred the nine artists whose works are on view downtown. (No doubt the $1,000 fee each received was a powerful incentive, as was the fact that the winning design will receive a commission worth nearly $15,000.) Several of the suggested sculptures are quite good and would be highly compatible with the existing pieces. This is especially true of Bill Gian's "Untitled," in which a group of looping forms have been clustered. Each individual form has been painted a different color in a pleasing array including red, purple and green. Dean Fleming's "Magic Cube II," four unconnected planes each painted a different color, would also fit right in. And since his original piece was demolished, he's surely a sentimental favorite.

Also noteworthy are Erick Johnson's "Beacon" and Chuck Parson's "Steeple," though neither is very close in spirit to the existing Burns Park sculptures. But then again, neither is the untitled sculpture from Bob Mangold's "PTTSAAES" series, which qualifies as the best proposal for several reasons. Mangold is the city's premier modern sculptor and was one of the original participants in the Denver Sculpture Symposium (his piece was one of the four that were quickly removed from the park). And perhaps most significant, Mangold is practically giving his piece away. The sculpture, were it to be accepted, would essentially represent a gift to the city by the artist, whose works of this size commonly sell in the $80,000 range. It would be foolish--and insulting--if Mangold were rebuffed.

Mark Dickson: Luminous Landscapes, through January 10 at the CSK Gallery, 1637 Wazee Street, 436-9236.

Patti Cramer, through January 4 at the 1/1 Gallery, 1715 Wazee Street, 298-9284.

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