The New Yorkers

The smallish Warhol print, which sadly has been placed by the back door, is part of the late artist's classic "Jackie" series, which comprises portraits of the First Lady before and after the assassination of JFK in 1963. "Jackie 1," a silver halftone dating from 1966, recalls the Camelot days of the Kennedy administration; the subject, wearing her pillbox hat, is seen smiling as she stands next to her husband.

The Rauschenberg and Warhol works capture the theme of Embodies more literally than does the highly abstracted de Kooning. It's the same with New York School superrealist Chuck Close, whose large "Self Portrait," a screen print from 1995, commands the main room at Round World. This piece is a traditional portrait in almost every sense, except that Close has cut his image into hundreds of small abstract shapes that, taken together and printed in eighty different colors, read like a photograph.

Neo-expressionism is another New York School movement represented. Several pieces fall into this broad category, including the work of one of the movement's most famous adherents, the late Jean-Michel Basquiat. In Basquiat's weird 1983 screen print on paper "Leg of a Dog," various crude drawings of bones have been combined with handwritten explanatory text.

Though New Yorkers dominate the show, there are a handful of artists from New Mexico, the West Coast and even Europe. But there's only one artist from Denver and, like de Kooning, Warhol and Basquiat, he's dead. The artist is Wes Kennedy, and the piece included by Zalkind--the infamous "Pieta," a black-and-white photo montage circa 1990--has been loaned by a private collector and thus is not for sale. (As Round World has discovered, aside from posthumously printed pieces, Kennedy's work is essentially unavailable for purchase.)

Zalkind's exhibition notes describe "Pieta" (which was first shown at Pirate) as "courageous." That's an understatement, since in "Pieta," Kennedy truly flirted with danger by combining religious imagery with homoeroticism. In the artist's re-creation of the famous Michelangelo sculpture on display at the Vatican, the figures of both the Virgin Mary and the dead Christ are played by men. Kennedy, who was already suffering from AIDS at the time (he died in 1993), posed as the crucified Christ, and there was no humor intended.

Asked about the dearth of Colorado talent in Embodies, Zalkind responds by noting that "there was no contrivance to insinuate locals." However, given the wide parameters Zalkind set for the work he did include in the show, it would hardly have been a contrivance to look at what's relevant in his own backyard. The gallery's estrangement from the local community is something its owners plan to address with a juried show scheduled for next year; that exhibit is being organized with the idea of attracting worthwhile Denver talent. But if the gallery hasn't yet snagged the town's artists, the compelling Embodies should catch the attention of nearly everyone else.

Embodies (faces and figures), through April 30 at the Round World gallery, 2199-B Arapahoe Street, 292-4748.

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