About Face

Around the corner in the Metro gallery, Milmoe continues his exploration of "Portraits" with candid shots. These spontaneous photographs are distinct from the formal posed photographs that open the show, but they're equally accomplished. A wonderful inclusion here is "Truckers at Erma's," a silver print from the 1950s of two cops and two truckers sharing a table at a roadside cafe. It's one of two photographs from another renowned Coloradan, Myron Wood, who was Gilpin's star pupil. In fact, Wood began studying with Gilpin as a child during the 1930s, when he lived next door to her in Colorado Springs. Like his mentor, Wood, who is now retired, worked mostly in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, creating a large body of stunning landscapes, still-life scenes and candid portraits.

The second half of the "Portraits" section also highlights Ron Wohlauer, a highly regarded contemporary photographer in Denver. Wohlauer is represented by semi-candid shots, but rather than looking in his own backyard for subjects, as Wood did, Wohlauer traveled to Ireland to find people at labor. In the 1997 silver print "Mr. John Brody, Ireland," his lens catches an elderly man taking a break from cutting peat in a field. Though Wohlauer has happened upon a casual circumstance, his composition is highly formal, with Brody heroically taking the center in the manner of a figure in a painting.

The small display devoted to "Photojournalism" is dominated by shots of Marilyn Monroe, including the famous 1952 silver print by Philippe Halsman that wound up on the cover of Life magazine. Though it technically fits the category, from an aesthetic viewpoint Halsman's piece isn't much different from Karsh's slightly older portraits of Churchill, Hemingway and Einstein.

Next up in the exhibit are photos collected under the banner of "Street Photography," most notably a set of Duane Michals's famous sequential photographs. The six-piece gelatin silver print photo series "Chance Meeting" from 1970 captures two men passing one another in an alley. Milmoe is a friend of Michals's and has sprinkled half a dozen pieces by the New Yorker through The Human Experience, including the more recent sequential effort "The Bogeyman" (in the "Modernism" section) and an oil-painted gelatin silver print portrait from 1986, "Natural Men With Natural Forms" (this one under "Experimental Photography").

It might have made more sense to include all of Michals's photos and photo-sequences in the "Modernism" portion of the show, but as with the blurring of the "Portraits" and "Photojournalism" categories, viewers are encouraged to see Milmoe's stylistic dividing lines more as suggestions than clearly defined limits. As the show continues, for example, "Photos of War," which includes a preponderance of Russian works, and a separate "Russian Documentary Photography" section have serious overlaps and are almost indistinguishable. Similarly, at the end of the exhibit, "Modernism" bleeds into "Experimental Photography," with the distinction between the two never being clearly made.

These two final chapters include some of the most unusual material in The Human Experience. "Modernism" begins with the fairly uncharacteristic, nearly abstract photo "Martinique" by European master Andre Kertesz. In this 1972 silver print, a shadowy man is hidden behind opaque glass and set against a background of the sea. The section continues with other big-name historical figures such as O. Winston Link, whose 1954 silver print "Gas Pump" shows a station attendant pumping gas while a train speeds past in the background.

Milmoe finishes off the show with a display of works rendered through unconventional techniques ranging from collage to digital photography. Emerging Denver talent Bryan Boettinger uses pinhole photos for the new three-part montage "Tim," while the more established John Haeseler employs his characteristic photocopy method for 1991's "Arabs and Nurses," a piece in which the artist plays all the parts himself.

Milmoe's lack of a strict organizing theme is a minor disappointment in The Human Experience. But since this show is crowded with so many compelling images, it's a quibble not worth quibbling over.

For those who may have missed NeoNow at Edge a few months ago--and especially for those who didn't--Denver's most promising young artist, Jason Hoelscher, is at it again. Ambient Austerity at the Rule Gallery, a display of new paintings, provides another chance to see Hoelscher's elegant and intelligent approach to what he calls "post-minimalism." Hoelscher, a student at the Rocky Mountain School of Art and Design, from which he will graduate next month, has studied for the last few years with Clark Richert, Denver's shaman of geometry, but Hoelscher has never copied his teacher's unique style. With graduation looming, the sad truth is that Hoelscher may soon fly the local coop, since he's already scored a show that's scheduled for next year at the prestigious O.K. Harris Gallery in New York City. In the meantime, here's a rare chance to see--and buy--an artist's paintings before he gets famous. But hurry, because the Rule show closes Tuesday.

The Human Experience: 20th Century Photography, through April 22 at the MSCD Center for the Visual Arts, 1701 Wazee Street, 294-5207.

Ambient Austerity, through April 21 at the Rule Gallery, 111 Broadway, 777-9473.

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