Art Beat

Michael Paglia's brief sketches of what's happening in the Denver art scene.

Two solo shows now at the Spark Gallery take up the topic of realism -- but each takes a clearly different path.

Occupying a full two-thirds of the gallery, Robert Gratiot: Recent Paintings is made up of a group of striking hyper-realist compositions. Gratiot is particularly interested in meticulously reproducing the effect of reflected light on shiny or transparent surfaces. Three of his acrylic-on-canvas paintings concern piles of eyeglasses wrapped in cellophane; several others are about swirly glass marbles, both in and out of cellophane. Another of the artistís favorite topics is the glass walls of modern buildings, as in Ess-DC: (seen above). In this painting, thereís even a vaporous self-portrait, with the glass reflecting Gratiot taking the photo on which the painting is based.

A very different kind of realism is employed in Madeleine Dodge: New Work, a small show made up of only five paintings. The exhibit has been hung in a discreet room in the corner of the main Spark space. Four of the five paintings are still-life scenes set in the kitchen; the other is a murky landscape. Stylistically, all of the paintings are examples of traditional realism, but Dodge puts a contemporary spin on them with the use of integral sculptural steel frames. The found steel she uses is smudged, and her welds are sloppy -- two attributes that work beautifully here.

Spark is often the place to find a pair of interesting exhibits presented simultaneously -- but rarely do they work together as well as these two. Both close Sunday.

 
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