Real and Imagined

Ceramics struggle for respect in the art world.

Also impressive is Richards's other large sculpture, installed facing the door. This piece is a tilted vertical slab made of unfinished plywood that leans against the wall and also incorporates shadows.

In the middle of the room, on a low platform, Judish has placed three ceramic sculptures by Florida's Barbara Sorensen that take the form of monumental chalices. Sorensen's work is well-known in Aspen because she has come to the area periodically to work at the renowned Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village.

The three closely related pieces, each titled "Pas de Trois" and distinguished by the numbers 1, 2 and 3, are hand-built stoneware that incorporate small Colorado river rocks on the rims and collars. The bases and bodies of all three chalices suggest the texture of cloth. Sorensen has pressed ribbed fabric into the clay, which left its three-dimensional pattern, then gathered it like drapery while it was still wet.

"Origin," by Ron Pollard, computer-generated image.
"Origin," by Ron Pollard, computer-generated image.
"Heterogeneous," by Bruce Price, acrylic on Masonite.
"Heterogeneous," by Bruce Price, acrylic on Masonite.

On the other side of these, along the wall, is a row of six pedestals with a glazed ceramic bowl by Michael Brohman placed on top of each. The bowls are all similar, each being finished in dark earth-tones. And the sculpted features lavishly embellished on and inside them settle the issue of whether or not they are sculptures. They are because they don't actually function as usable vessels.

Brohman studied ceramics at Colorado State University while earning a bachelor of science degree in design in 1991. The influence of Richard DeVore, the famous ceramics professor there, is easy to see, especially in terms of the gestural, billowing forms of Brohman's bowls and the piercing of the surface seen in some.

Later, Brohman received a master's in architecture from the University of Colorado at Denver and practiced briefly as an architect before turning to sculpture, his true calling, in the late 1990s. He currently teaches sculpture at UCD. In the conference room at Judish, accessed through the back gallery, there are a couple of his recent monumental bronze sculptures of conventionalized nudes on view.

In the long and narrow central room at the gallery is a row of wall-mounted shelves that are used to display a series of gorgeous hand-built ceramic vessels by Jeff Wenzel. In the 1980s, Wenzel was chiefly known for his ceramics; he was a teaching assistant for the legendary ceramic sculptor Peter Voulkos at the University of California at Berkeley -- where he received his master of arts and master of fine arts degrees -- and studied drawing and painting with Elmer Bishoff and Joan Brown. When Wenzel moved to Colorado more than a decade ago, he turned away from ceramics, however, and became an abstract painter. His paintings, done on torn and twisted paper, are not unrelated to the earlier ceramic vessels in Volume.

In "Red Fish Vessel," Wenzel lays sheets of clay with Picassoid fish painted on them around the hand-formed vase. "African Mud Fish Vessel" is made in a similar way, with slabs of clay applied to the outside of the vase. Simpler in form are his "Envelope Vessels," thin horizontal sculptures that have been slab-built and glazed in stripes. The triangular folds of an envelope have been translated into visible joints in the rolled clay sheets from which the slabs are made.

Opposite the Wenzels is a section devoted to the neo-minimalist paintings and a painted sculpture by Bruce Price. A student just five years ago, Price has had quite a ride. His paintings, which are both hard-edged and expressionistic, got their premiere at the Rule Modern and Contemporary Gallery three years ago; it's been onward and upward since then.

Price's mentor and former teacher, painter Clark Richert, views his onetime student as among the most important abstract painters working in the area right now. So do many others. Last year, Price was the subject of a sought-after solo show at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. His work was also included in the significant Colorado Abstraction exhibit last fall at the Arvada Center.

In Volume, his painted sculpture "Heterogeneous," done in acrylic on board, is a courageous piece. It's made of two rectangular solids pushed against one another to form a horizontal shape. The two solids have been painted separately, and even the parts we can't see have been finished. The joint between them forms a central division. On the edges, Price wraps rectangular painted shapes around the corner, which suggests additional inserted rectangular solids. One of the most interesting features is the mottled, painterly finish in places, which is juxtaposed to matte painted sections elsewhere.

This tension between finishes introduces the illusion of three-dimensionality into the flat surfaces of Price's paintings, even to his painted sculptures. The indefinite surfaces recede; the solid surfaces proceed. It's even more obvious in the pair of small square paintings, "Plato" and "Pythagoras," both done in acrylic and dust on canvas. Each has a white square at the surface which seems to float on gray and cream passages that are heavily obscured with clear acrylic glaze.

The larger, easel-sized painting "Real & Actual," in acrylic and graphite on canvas, is based on the same relationships. A white rectangle filling the upper left of the corner is laid on top, partly obscuring a graphite square with a cream border. Like "Plato" and "Pythagoras," "Real & Actual" incorporates the luminous effects of acrylic glazes.

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