Art Beat

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

Is That Jazz?is a real oddball of a show, a collection of bizarre, yet somehow quaint, paintings, watercolors and a construction by Dallas artist David McCullough. The pieces are dense, opaque and thick -- words that also describe the tangle of theoretical concepts that underlie his work.

Like Jung, I want to get underneath it, beneath it,: says McCullough, miming the act of digging with his hands. And then there’s Joseph Campbell, and John Cage, and Buckminster Fuller. My work is about geomancy, it’s ancient, it’s where feng shui comes from,: he says. (Consulting my Webster’s, I find that geomancy: is a divination by means...of dots jotted down hastily at random.:)

To answer the rhetorical question presented by the exhibit’s title, this isn’t jazz. But then, what is it? Even hearing McCullough’s confusing and obtuse explanations doesn’t help connect his theories with his art, which is indeed random in quality. McCullough is at his best in To Maki: (above), a richly encrusted canvas covered in acrylic paint and embedded with sand. Like the other pieces here, To Maki: mixes hard-edged passages with wildly expressive ones; unlike other pieces here, To Maki: is very good.

Lisa Spivak, the director of the Philip J. Steele Gallery, has done a fine job of installing Is that Jazz?,: once again managing to convert this difficult lobby space into a bona fide exhibition venue. With a remodeling planned for the building, which also houses offices and the design department of the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Spivak will be moving into a proper gallery space -- one with a door, even -- and reopening the Steele gallery next summer.

It’s commendable that a little school like RMCAD can expand its gallery while the immense Auraria campus, home of three big educational institutions, lets the once highly respected Emmanuel Gallery languish without an exhibition budget and without a director. That the space has been empty for months is a disgrace; the powers that be at Auraria should be ashamed.

 
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