One-Stop Viewing

As could be expected given Halsman's long relationship with Life, most of the portraits in the BMoCA exhibit depict celebrities, especially show-biz types, but Halsman also photographed many of the century's prominent artists. He had a long personal and professional relationship with Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali, and his photos of Dali are remarkable. Especially fine are the two multi-print series that attempt to translate Dali's surrealism into photos. In "Dali Atomicus," from 1948, the artist is depicted in seven closely related photos. Halsman created an elaborate interior setting that includes furniture hung from the ceiling, and as he snapped the photos, Dali jumped into the air. Also aloft are a couple of cats (who presumably landed on their feet) and a thrown bucket of water. Incredible.

The most recent photos in Uncovering Life were taken in the 1960s, although Halsman worked until his death, in 1979.

In the smaller East Gallery is another solo outing, Light and Dark Matter, which focuses on the recent paintings of Michigan artist Beverly Fishman. The term "painting" is used loosely here, since Fishman's work is actually made from photocopied images painted over in acrylic and then covered with thick coats of clear resin. But BMoCA is not alone in describing Fishman's work this way: The famed Cranbrook Academy, where Fishman heads the painting department, does too.

The photocopied images have been applied to small, oddly shaped pieces of wood that are clustered on the wall in complicated arrangements. Because of the complex patterns in Fishman's paintings, hanging the exhibit was difficult for the BMoCA staff--especially since the artist didn't personally supervise the installation. Instead, each element was labeled on the back by Fishman with a letter and a number. To provide a guide to the assembly of her so-called paintings, Fishman sent transparent plastic maps that were pierced where hangers needed to be.

Fishman's work seems to refer to astronomy, the clustered forms intentionally suggesting the constellations. Oddly, though, the specific images Fishman uses have been gleaned from scientific textbooks in which the original inspiration was microscopic cells. In this way, Fishman refers simultaneously to the vastness of space and the limited realm of cellular structure.

Fishman isn't the only cutting-edge artist to be feted with a solo at BMoCA. Upstairs, in the oddly configured Union Works Gallery, is Truncated Infinities & Floating Absolutes, by emerging Denver art star Bruce Price. A former student of Clark Richert at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, in recent years Price has gained a considerable local reputation as a vanguard artist. Richert has described him as one of the first RMCAD graduates with the potential to make a real contribution to contemporary art, nationally as well as regionally.

Taking a page from Richert's mathematical painting book, Price developed an involved pictorial system for Truncated Infinities. He employs this system to express his interest in resolving dichotomies, as suggested by the exhibit's title. As the viewer ascends to the second floor, a group of five tiny vertical paintings called "Untitled" have been hung one over the other at different intervals. The small acrylics, which represent the first and the smallest of three groupings in Truncated Infinities, are painted off-white, essentially the same color as the wall; their sides are done in fluorescent green.

Price determined the sizes of his three groups with mathematical equations: He took the measurement of the first joint of the director Payton's right index finger and multiplied the result by the irrational number that signifies the golden section, a system of proportion used since ancient times.

The next group, and the largest, is one of the strongest pieces in the show. "Bilateral Emptiness," a vertical black box that comes out from the wall, is a real knockout. On each side is a square, one painted cream, the other white. As with all of the paintings, the composition wraps around the top, bottom and sides of the paintings.

The show concludes with the mid-sized paintings, which are, interestingly, the most densely composed. One of the most unusual elements of the pieces in Truncated Infinities is that some have been hung vertically, while others are horizontal. This odd feature, which creates great diversity in this single series, reflects Price's interest in the arbitrary. It's little wonder that Price describes his style as "mannerist," since it contains both strict guidelines and spontaneously made decrees.

The four very different exhibits at BMoCA, all of which come to a close this weekend, demonstrate once again that director Cydney Payton is a gifted--and courageous--exhibition organizer. She has transformed the modest red brick building into one of the most exciting and adventurous museums anywhere. You'd think that with talent like this, the city, as wealthy as it is, would get around to giving Payton a proper museum to work in. After all, if Arvada can afford a state-of-the-art facility for the fine arts, why can't Boulder?

Housed, Uncovering Life, Light and Dark Matter and Truncated Infinities & Floating Absolutes, through May 2 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 303-443-2122.

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