By Show and Tell
By Bree Davies
By Bree Davies
By Cory Casciato
By Emilie Johnson
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davis
By Josiah M. Hesse
Two of Sumner's standouts here show foxes rather than wolves. In "Surface Waves," which has been heavily streaked with a whitish stain, Sumner places the upside-down (dead?) fox across the length of the panel. This time the painted circles cover parts of the fox; around the fox are ambiguous details that have been painted out. "Hunt" features another fox and a more elaborate painted-out background. Sumner provides a variation on the light-blue ground by pouring solvents down the front of the painting, creating subtle streaks.
The surfaces of Sumner's paintings are dry and dusty, like frescoes, with a dull sheen. For all of the pieces shown here, she's used oil paint applied to the plywood face of a wall-hung wooden box. Each box has thick sides made of boards, which form an armature. This three-dimensionality adds a monumental quality to Sumner's simple, unframed paintings, which fill the gallery's small entryway and line three of its walls.
Rule's back wall has been left blank to provide a visual stop for Boulder artist Linda Herritt's "W.I.N.A.C.C.: F.T.M.," an installation made of sequined fabric, sequined clothing and foam rubber. Although she does use other materials, Herritt's internationally acclaimed installations most often incorporate fabric, typically in the form of draperies. Here, silver fabric is strung in courses, in the manner of Austrian blinds, in a large vertical feature hanging from the ceiling off to the right. This vertical column slowly rotates with the help of electric motors, whose whir is an intended element.
The floor holds a variety of elements, including large stuffed shapes covered in the same sequined fabric and arrayed in front and to the left side of the draped, moving tower. The fabric shapes are laid in beds of shredded foam rubber that has aged to a golden ivory; half-hidden in the foam are pieces of women's clothing--some erotic, some fetishistic, all in silver lame. The clothing is clearly a feminist element, but Herritt's political content is hard to see and, once seen, still difficult to understand.
According to Rule, Herritt intends for "W.I.N.A.C.C.: F.T.M." to convey a Chinese landscape painting. The vertical element is meant to be a waterfall; the forms on the floor, rocks; the shredded foam, foaming water, with the bare floor standing in for a water-filled pool. Although this reading fully explains the installation, viewers are unlikely to come to it on their own. (Interestingly, Rule says the piece particularly appeals to younger viewers because it has a retro, Seventies quality. "It's like a disco ball," she says, pointing to the turning vertical structure, "and the 'rocks' are like beanbag chairs.")
Rule's pairing of Sumner and Herritt in Denatured was inspired. The predominantly blue paintings and the mostly silver installation come together to create an otherworldly glow, a totally engaging atmosphere and a truly special magic.
When wood turned to stone, the current show at Spark Gallery, Denver's oldest existing co-op, also pairs paintings with an installation. But here the artists do distinctly solo turns.
In the larger front gallery, co-op member Susanna Cavalletti Podboy displays four large oil-on-canvas paintings and a half-dozen mixed-media works on paper. The works on paper are small abstractions that refer to nature in their earthy palette and materials--leaves, twigs and feathers. Although the large paintings, traditional and impressionistic landscapes, are less literal in their references, their subject is more straightforward: scenery. In last year's "Lost Location," for example, Podboy creates a classic composition with a twisted tree in the foreground, a meadow and a mountain glimpsed between its boughs. Her style is loose yet captures many details. Particularly nice is Podboy's use of heavy brush strokes to create the gold, brown and green leaves on the tree.
Trees are also the topic of Judith Cohn's ceramic installation that lends its name to When wood turned to stone. But Cohn conveys the trees conceptually rather than realistically. Her installation fills the back gallery to overflowing with roughly spherical ceramic shapes seemingly placed at random, as are the four standing elements meant to be trees. These forms are made in two parts and decorated with abstractions of twigs and, in one case, fruit.
Cohn made the elements that make up her installation with a combination of casting and coil-building. Using low-fire terra cotta, she was able to come up with some fabulous glaze colors in the electric kiln, including a deep red and a variety of turquoise shades. The glaze decorations, which only partly cover the clay bodies, are gestural and include stripes, polka dots and free-form splashes.
Cohn may be a newcomer to Spark, but she's an old pro when it comes to ceramics. A protege of legendary ceramic artist Jun Kaneko, with whom she studied at the prestigious Cranbrook Academy in Michigan, Cohn already has a piece in the renowned ceramics collection of New York's Alfred University. Spark is lucky to have her--and so are Denver art lovers.
Out of Place, through March 13 at DU's Art and Art History Gallery, Shwayder Art Building, 2121 East Asbury Avenue, 303-871-2846.
Denatured, through March 20 at Rule Modern and Contemporary Gallery, 111 Broadway, 303-777-9473.
When wood turned to stone, through March 14 at Spark Gallery, 1535 Platte Street, 303-455-4435.