Do's and Don't's

The real dump is next door in the East Gallery, which is filled with the BMoCA-originated Fertile Waste. Six artists were chosen for what museum director Cydney Payton calls "mini-residencies"; using the East Gallery as their collective studio, the six took trash collected from around Boulder and turned it into an assortment of installations, sculptures and wall pieces. One of the exhibit's sponsors, the Boulder County Recycling and Composting Authority, suggests viewing these artworks as a kind of "soft" reuse of refuse. Unfortunately, few pieces transcend their lowly origins: Garbage in, garbage out.

Denver's Brad Evans and Tim Jag, an artist from San Francisco, supervised the other participants, requesting that they "create projects using...found materials." Evans himself contributes the largest and most engrossing piece: "Waste Composite," a floor-and-ceiling installation in which a green path leads the visitor through piles of debris including a lawn mower, while overhead hang aluminum cans held in Plexiglas cases. Simpler, and much easier to understand, is Evans's "And Baby Makes 3," which lines up three shopping carts with clothing laid out to symbolize a man, a woman and a child.

Jag was the most prolific of the participating artists. Among the most engaging of his pieces is "Jar Transformer/On Site Alchemy," a shelf bearing a row of jars filled with multi-colored liquids that have been back-lit. Also intriguing is "Prize Stories 'Grouping,'" with the spines of old books lined up in a metal frame hung on the wall.

But other pieces in Fertile Waste are a complete waste. In "Rake for Niccolo," a work devoid of any artistic, conceptual or narrative content, San Francisco's Christian Spruell takes a pair of Styrofoam cups stuck with dirty white pushpins and places one on top of a cassette tape. Critics sometimes degrade contemporary art as looking like something anyone could do--and that's certainly true here.

Fortunately, that's not the case with The Entelechy of Reality, a solo show by Josh Bemelen in the upstairs Union Works Gallery. The installation begins even as the viewer climbs the stairs. A ceiling-mounted conveyor belt of meat hooks hung with used clothing creates an eerie, claustrophobic atmosphere that's heightened as the installation proceeds. In addition to those disturbing meat hooks, Bemelen has used two wall-hung, moving boxes filled with body parts made of cast latex. And then there's that clear plastic maze filled with dead cockroaches. (The roaches were supposed to be alive, but they died off in the heat of recent weeks. Luckily, Bemelen was talked out of his original idea: using mice, which no doubt would have met the same sorry fate.)

Bemelen is a student at the University of Denver, where he's a protege of Lawrence Argent, an installation genius. Although you can see the influence of the master in Entelechy (the title refers to an Aristetolian concept regarding self-fulfillment), this installation is much rawer than Argent's work, less fully jelled.

Like the pieces in Fertile Waste and do it, every part of Entelechy was created specifically for its BMoCA debut. So it's not surprising that the museum was very busy in the days leading up to last month's opening, with volunteers and artists working around the clock. Are these three shows worth all that coordinated effort? As any conceptualist would tell you, it's the thought that counts.

do it, Fertile Waste and The Entelechy of Reality, through August 30 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 443-2122.

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