Common Sense

Arvada artist Emilio Lobato also relies on collage to create abstractions. In "Octavio," an oil and collage on canvas, he tries his hand at geometry. Although Lobato has long used rectangular book pages as pictorial elements, this piece is somewhat uncharacteristic. The picture is divided into four squares arranged in a grid; moving from top left to bottom right is a series of partial circles that quickly lead the eye through the painting. To this Lobato adds the die-cut numerals 3 and 5.

The show coninues under the mezzanine with smaller pieces by Luis Eades, Judith Lightfield and Jean Roller. Boulder painter Eades has an idiosyncratic style, one both hyper-realistic and surrealistic. In the crisply rendered oil on canvas "Pisces," a cooked fish on a plate is set on a "table" made from a ferocious-looking prehistoric fish fossil, while brightly colored living fish swim in the foreground. Denver's Lightfield displays her ability to create inner light with paint on three small landscapes, all featuring expressively handled trees standing against opalescent skies at dusk. Her expert use of dark shades of green and pink lend these paintings a pleasingly mysterious shrouded quality. For example, in "Alone," an acrylic on canvas, a flame-like tree is placed just off-center before an indefinite background that may include rolling hills. Between the Eades and Lightfield paintings are the only three-dimensional pieces in the show, all by Roller and all reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp, "Id Cabinet" in particular.

Work by the last two of the twelve occupies the upstairs mezzanine. Denver's Tony Ortega is represented by a quartet of his highly individualistic pastels on paper, all depicting street scenes. Ortega has been with Havu for fifteen years, and to celebrate the fact, a major survey exhibit of his work is set for next month at the gallery. Maryland artist Gunnar Plake may be from back East, but he sets his sights on the familiar Western landscape in his three photographs. Elegantly mounted on aluminum sheets, these photos are not just blurry, they're downright painterly. Plake achieves the effect by manipulating the photo while it's still film in the camera, not later in the darkroom.

12 Artists in Common is a very good show, with an even better idea behind it. Too bad the DAM itself only rarely thinks of devoting a show to local artists included in its permanent collection.

Among the scores of galleries in Denver and its environs, only a few dozen play any real role in the contemporary art world. And sadly, two from that elite short list, the CSK Gallery and the Round World Gallery, shut their doors in the last months of 1998.

Kent and Colleen Shira opened CSK Gallery with great expectations nearly five years ago. They leased a two-story space on then-prestigious Wazee Street, planning to locate the gallery on the ground floor and a print shop in the basement. And not just any print shop: CSK formed an inno-vative partnership with a prominent local publisher of prints, Open Press, which is run by Mark Lunning. The idea was that Open Press would produce prints downstairs while CSK would sell them upstairs. But the deal soon went sour, and Lunning moved out within a year, taking some of the area's best-known artists with him.

The gallery recovered from this split, however. At first CSK handled print production as well as art sales, with Colleen running the gallery and Kent, a distinguished printmaker in his own right, taking over the print shop. Later the basement space was spun off to Fuel, a computer-graphics firm.

What really did CSK in was all the construction activity along Wazee last year. Despite its high-profile location, CSK was often hidden behind scaffolding and dirt left by a sidewalk remodeling and the remodeling of a nearby space into Il Fornaio. And even when you could see the gallery, it was almost impossible to enter--getting into CSK required navigating the hazardous and muddy alley where a temporary entrance was located.

The Shiras were compensated all along for these inconveniences by their landlord, and they've been bought out of their lease. But whatever they received, it can't compensate them--or the art scene--for the destruction of a once-promising gallery.

Although Round World, opened in 1997 by David Teplitzky and Peggy Scott, was not surrounded by heavy equipment and barricades, its location was just as tough as CSK's. Access to the gallery was through an inconspicuous and minimally marked side door on 22nd Street--even though its official address was on Arapahoe.

Still, Round World started strong, mounting shows with some of the biggest names in the art world, including Willem de Kooning, Jenny Holzer and Jean-Michel Basquiat. But business was nowhere near as good as the art, and sluggish sales finally forced the pair to close the gallery. "We had zero foot traffic," Teplitzky says, adding that he and Scott will continue to work as private dealers and remain active in the local art scene. That's already evidenced in the impressive Sans Titre show, highlighting their personal collection, which just opened at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.

Although gallery closures are a familiar feature of the art business, it's still a shock to lose ones as worthy as CSK and Round World--and a sorry way to end the year.

12 Artists in Common, through February 6 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360.

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