Sit on It

Opposite the Chongs are a pair of edgy representational paintings by Peter Illig, one of the city's most unfairly underrated artists. Illig's style is somewhat traditional in the two oil-on-canvas compositions. In "Friendship of Gilgamesh," two young men sit on a couch; "Allegory of Painting" is a mock triptych on the various roles of women. Both Illig paintings have the character of creepy detective-novel covers that contrasts with the mundane scenes he captures.

Exhibition organizer Perisho pointed out that "Waiting," the Lawrence Argent installation just beyond the Illigs, has been the big hit of Chairs! "People just stand and stare at it," she says. And little wonder, since it includes a video loop that demands attention. Argent has placed a rusting metal lawn chair on a stand; near it he has positioned a beat-up found ladder from which a bucket is suspended. The bucket has been pierced with holes plugged up with wine-bottle corks, but it's more than just a design element of the piece: Hidden within it is a video projector. Argent uses the video to place images of people's backsides onto the seat of the chair. Amazingly, these likenesses are both readily recognizable and surprisingly abstract. And some are shocking, like the nude young man whose testicles are placed dead center in the image.

Adjacent to "Waiting" are two wall-hung assemblages by Carlos Santistevan that continue this artist's longtime interest in the creation of santos or, more specifically, bultos. Santistevan traces his lineage back to Pedro Antonio Fresquis, a santero artist who worked in New Mexico at the turn of the eighteenth century. Combining traditional Chicano religious imagery with the methods and concepts of contemporary art, Santistevan creates highly sophisticated work. In "Nuestra Senora," he hangs a chair upside down on the wall, drapes it with lace and adorns it with artificial flowers. Hung on the inverted back is a straw weaving of the Madonna. "The Passion" is another wall-hung chair--this one right side up--that has been handled as though it were an altar screen, or reredo. The back has been painted with a scene of the crucifixion, in front of which Santistevan has placed a wooden carving of the risen Christ.

Around the corner, in the pair of large north galleries, are some of the most abstract pieces in the show--beautiful drawings by Sharon Smolinski in which there may or may not be images of chairs. In "Shapes I," a charcoal and pastel on paper, Smolinski assembles scribbles and a smudged black field. The technique is spontaneous and gestural, with marks used to create what seems to be a completely non-objective piece.

In the middle of the gallery is an unusual work by Andy Libertone, one of the state's best sculptors. During the last several decades, Libertone has been all over the stylistic map. Even so, "Heavy Planet Slider" is unexpected. For this piece, Libertone uses unfinished wood to construct a throne that he has upholstered with flattened aluminum cans.

Among the last pieces in Chairs! is a group of paintings on paper by Rita Derjue that record views of Donald Lipski's "Yearling," the sculpture of a horse on a big red chair that sits on the lawn of the Denver Public Library. Of the pieces included in the show, these Derjues are the most traditional.

As usual, Perisho has done a good job of assembling a wide range of diverse talent for Chairs! "I came up with this show so that people could use their imaginations," she recalls. And that's the case not only for the included artists, but for exhibition visitors as well.

Where is he now? Remember Ernest T. Bass from the old Andy Griffith Show? He was the dim-witted yokel who would come into Mayberry periodically, much to the consternation of Sheriff Andy Taylor and his loyal deputy, Barney Fife. During his visits, Bass would often turn his unwanted amorous attentions toward a young lady. He would then be rebuffed and, as a result, declare war on Mayberry. He'd jump up and down, cackle and then hurl rocks through the shop windows on Main Street.

After the show was canceled, Bass found himself adrift, and unlike his better-recognized co-stars, he did not get a lucrative residual deal and so had to find a job. Though it is little known, Bass wound up in Denver. He changed his name to Bob Ewegen and began writing for the Denver Post. And because he was still on probation for his defenestration efforts, he began to throw insults instead of stones--this time aiming not at windows, but at the people who hope to make Denver a better place to live.

I'm kidding, of course. Comparing Bass to Ewegen is a cheap shot and thoroughly unfair--to Bass.

Bass may have been a bad egg, but at least he never thought of the Holocaust as a source for humor, as Ewegen did in a column published on June 28 with a title nearly--but not quite--as stupid as its content: "Jar Jar Binks IS Denver." Apparently the totally out-of-it Ewegen thinks that referring to the current Star Wars movie would make him seem hip. It doesn't.

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