Hot off the Presses

Printed matter papers the walls at the William Havu Gallery.

Master printer Bud Shark has been making prints in and around Boulder for a long time since he first established his fine-art press, Shark's Inc., in the 1970s. Bill Havu, director of his namesake William Havu Gallery, has been around for a long time as well, selling fine prints in Denver since the mid-1980s. So it's odd, considering how small the Colorado art world is, that the two hadn't worked together until a couple of months ago.

Havu is now Shark's retail representative in Denver. Thus the many prints pulled at Shark's, which before were only occasionally seen in Denver and have never all been available for sale at a single venue, can now be viewed and bought at the same local gallery. To herald the arrangement, Havu has mounted a stupendous grab-bag of a show that fills the center spaces and the galleries located beneath and on the mezzanine. Select Prints: Shark's Inc. includes works by a cavalcade of big-time art stars who have had prints made in Colorado, and it's riveting.

Born in North Dakota, Shark first became interested in printmaking as a teenager in the 1960s, when he learned about the lithographs of Robert Nelson, that state's preeminent artist of the period. Shark went on to the University of Wisconsin and the University of New Mexico to perfect his chosen craft. After that, he worked for a time at the famous Tamarind Lithography Studio, which was then located in Los Angeles but has since moved to New Mexico. He later worked in London with British printmakers Editions Alecto and the Petersberg Press.

"Jackson in Action," by Red Grooms, 3-D lithograph.
"Jackson in Action," by Red Grooms, 3-D lithograph.


Through October 7


William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street

In 1974, Shark and his wife, Barbara, a painter and a key component in the operation of Shark's, moved from London to Boulder. Despite his good printmaking credentials, however, there were no jobs available in his line, and he was forced to make a meager living by painting signs. After struggling for a year, Shark began to fantasize in 1975 about opening his own print studio and decided that Boulder could financially sustain such a shop, at least if it was of the small storefront variety. A year later he launched Shark's by inviting a local artist, Gordon Mansell, to do a print. It was an experiment, and Shark pulled Mansell's print for nothing.

Success was almost immediate when, that same year, Shark used his overseas connections to land a large commission from London's Waddington Galleries for a suite of lithographs. This legitimized Shark's Inc. both around here and overseas, and the business soon grew by leaps and bounds.

The studio, now at its third location, consists of a complex of buildings in the foothills above Lyons. Among the whispering pines, up a steep, winding gravel driveway, is a cool '60s ranch house and a recently built print studio, a painting studio for Barbara and a small residential cottage for visiting artists.

For most of the time that Shark was establishing his practice in the Boulder area, Havu was building his own business in Denver.

Havu moved down from Aspen in the mid-'80s and opened a wholesale print business on the second floor of a Victorian commercial building on Park Avenue, right above the Robischon Gallery. After Robischon moved to lower downtown in 1990, Havu followed suit a year later, opening the 1/1 Gallery and beginning the retail phase of his career. The odd name, which remains in the gallery's logo and on its Web site, refers to the way monotypes are marked: One out of one. As could be expected, mootypes were a specialty of the 1/1 Gallery. Many of these monotypes were commissioned by Havu and executed by Mark Lunning's Open Press.

In 1998, Havu moved again -- this time to a dazzling, custom-made building in the Golden Triangle -- and changed the name of his operation to the William Havu Gallery. He also shifted his exhibition programming; at 1/1, prints were the main course, but they were garnished by exhibitions of paintings and sculptures. At William Havu, prints have been virtually banished from view, with paintings and sculptures predominating.

Now that's apparently changed again.

Select Prints gets under way with the work of Red Grooms, the legendary New York pop artist. Havu's large middle room has been accented with a half-dozen pieces by Grooms. In several of these, the artist pushes the printmaking medium right off the wall and creates -- with Shark's expert help -- three-dimensional color lithographs. Call them what you will, they're hybrids of prints and sculptures.

These sculptural multiples are made by die-cutting various prints and assembling them together. One of the most ambitious of these is 1989's "Little Italy," a tabletop diorama of a comic-book version of a street in New York's Italian neighborhood. In "Fats Domino," from 1984, another tabletop piece, the great musician is seen sitting at his grand piano. In 1997's "Jackson in Action," a wall-hung construction, Grooms good-naturedly skewers the painter, who is depicted at work, his many arms suggesting movement.

These 3-D prints are miniature corollaries to Grooms's more famous and much larger painted-steel sculptures.

The next artist is Montana's John Buck, whose three monumental color woodcuts have been hung in the niche formed by the display-window bay that runs across the front of the gallery.

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