Shaping Up

Now marking its nineteenth year, the exhibition in Golden was jured by internationally known Texas sculptor Jesus Bautista Moroles, whose own solo show only recently closed after a nine-month run at the Museum of Outdoor Art in Greenwood Village. Moroles did a superb job of sifting through hundreds of entries to come up with the more than seventy works on display here. He's obviously made an effort to survey the many currents that occupy sculptors today, including in the show prim neo-traditional figure studies as well as abstract and non-objective pieces. Some of these sit on the floor, as expected, while others are hung on the wall--and, in at least in one case, from the ceiling.

In the small niche off of Foothills' main entrance are a selection of Moroles's signature sculptures, including two of his famous red-sandstone steles and a black-granite ziggurat. Unfortunately, this space, which until recently served as the center's gift shop, is oddly shaped and crowded with visual clutter such as windows, shelves and a lot of woodwork, making it far from ideal for viewing Moroles's spare, minimalist sculptures. Nonetheless, the sculptor's genius shows through, providing viewers with proof of his rock-steady credentials.

The exhibit starts off slowly, with little of genuine interest in the first two small galleries. An exception is "North Coast," a muscular, low-to-the-ground abstract made of cast aluminum by Keith Bickford of Los Altos, California. Not until the viewer proceeds to the large central gallery and the even grander back gallery (which was once the nave of a church) does the show really get going.

One of the exhibit's most elegant and sophisticated pieces is found in the central space. "Faces of Hope: The Homeless," by Denver sculptor Steve Pierce, comprises a black metal framework from which stacks of clear plastic panels, imprinted with blurry portraits, have been hung. The panels can be flipped back and forth to reveal different images of the city's homeless population.

More traditional in tone are two stone sculptures also displayed in the center room. "Diva," by Thomas Wermers, is an abstracted figure of a standing woman carved from dolomite and limestone; like "Faces of Hope," it was made here in Denver. The other notable stone piece is Ohio artist Charles Herndon's "A Passage in Stone," a twisted knot sculpted from red granite.

Near the stone sculptures is an unusual abstract of a man seated on a rough-hewn wooden stool. "The Age of Iron" is the work of Bruce Gueswell, who hails from Loveland, that center of sickeningly sweet sculptural sentimentality where the typical fare is the polar opposite of a difficult piece such as this.

Things really pick up as the viewer proceeds to the final section in the large back gallery. Lee Imonen of Portland, Oregon, uses maple and steel to create "Untouchable," a cluster of spikes that have been elaborately gathered and held together with prominent pegs. "Jednostranost" is a sublime minimalist spire made of patinated steel by Richard Kalas of Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Westminster sculptor Michael Symber's "Back Door Girl" is a series of steel forms--including, amusingly, a window screen--that rise from a tall vertical stand.

Several artists adapt the columnar form to unorthodox horizontal placements. In Mexican artist Becky Guttin's "Transmutacion," a stainless-steel cylinder is partly obscured by resin sheets wrapped around it. A similar approach is taken by Darl Thomas of Salt Lake City for the much smaller tabletop metal sculpture "Planes in Space 4."

One of the most unusual pieces in the show is "Flyin' Bedstead," by San Francisco's Walter Bruszewski, a ceiling-hung stabile made of sheet metal, rods and wire. For this airy piece, hanging metal panels have been pierced with circles and brightly painted in various shades including orange, yellow and green.

Bruszewski's stabile has a insubstantial quality not often seen in the sculptural medium. It's very much like the approach taken by local installation maven Folkestad in her Cornerstones show at Artyard. The sculptures that make up this show are interrelated but clearly separable works; all are close to the ground and feature the imaginative use of seemingly incompatible materials like concrete and knitted yarn.

In "Cornerstone: morning," baling-wire fencing seems to flow out of a cast-concrete form that sits on the floor. Trailing off from the fencing are wax-covered wires. For "Cornerstone: evening," Folkestad uses a yellow, yarn-covered trivet as the base for a concrete corner adorned with a tangle of woven baling wire. Folkestad has written that she was inspired to do this series by the corners of rooms--which, she observes, are most often empty.

The Front Range isn't particularly known for its sculpture. But as long as there's plenty of controversy about public sculpture--and plenty of good private work--there's at least something to talk about.

19th North American Sculpture Exhibition, through July 12 at the Foothills Art Center, 809 Fifteenth Street, Golden, 279-3922.

Cornerstones, through July 15 at Artyard, 1251 South Pearl Street, 777-3219.

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