Art Beat

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

Emerging artist Colin Livingston has put together a moving show made up of paintings and mixed-media pieces that depict his mother. Mom, currently at the Apart Modern Gallery, takes up a difficult topic, however: Livingston's mother committed suicide when he was in the fifth grade.

The artist addresses this deeply personal tragedy in a number of ways and in several distinct styles. Many of the works are traditional representational paintings, while others are neo-pop pieces that refer to the work of Andy Warhol, both in terms of the palette and the fact that Livingston sometimes employs repetition in which a single piece contains a grid of multiple images. All of the pieces use old family snap-shots and correspondence as artistic fodder. At times Livingston uses photocopies; at others, he uses painted renditions of the photos. But regardless of type, in all of these works, Livingston either highlights or obscures his mother.

In several of the pieces, he uses photos of himself as a child posed together with his mother. In these, his mother is rendered in full detail while his self-portraits are unfinished — just as he was as a person when she died. The artist's face is handled as little more than a few drawn lines with the gessoed ground underneath showing through. They'll make you shudder. In others, Livingston places colored gels in front of the images, creating both visual and psychological distance between the viewer and the subject. An example is "Mother on Couch," a compelling mixed media on canvas.

Mom will be the last show to be presented by Karl Gerzan's Apart Gallery, since Gerzan is leaving town to pursue his own painting career. When this show closes tomorrow, so, too, does Apart. And by closing only a few months after it opened, Apart has had one of the shortest runs in the history of Denver exhibition spaces. The first time I saw the place, I knew it was an unrealistic pipe dream with little chance of making it, but I'm surprised Apart came apart so fast.

 
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