Real to Real

This solo shows celebrates the importance of Italian art -- and Colorado's most accomplished contemporary sculptor.

All of DeAndrea's influences -- from the actual human body to historical art prototypes to Italian religious art stretching from the Vatican to Mt. Carmel -- are exhibited in his moving, solo show. Although Ron Judish Fine Arts is filled with disturbingly accurate depictions of mostly nude women, the atmosphere isn't sexually charged, but instead spiritual and dignified. The effect is absolutely stunning.

You can see a portion of the show before you walk in the door, through the gallery's large display windows along Wazee Street, and this glimpse alone will take your breath away. (The exterior view is especially nice at night, when the gallery is, unfortunately, closed.) Through the windows, the first thing you see is one of DeAndrea's signature 1997-2000 painted polyvinyl sculptures, "Christine," a semi-recumbent female nude perched on a low stand that's painted white. "A few years ago, you couldn't put a sculpture like this in a window in Denver," says DeAndrea.

Although Denver's mores may have changed, it's still a little shocking to spot what looks like a live, naked lady lounging in a lighted window. But you can hardly blame Judish for placing the sculpture there, because "Christine" has had an impressive, positive impact on the gallery's traffic. During the time I was visiting, a number of passersby did a double take when they first spotted "Christine," and then, like moths to the flame, made a dash for the gallery's front door.

John DeAndrea, "Expulsion II," painted polyvinyl.
John DeAndrea, "Expulsion II," painted polyvinyl.


Through October 28
Ron Judish Fine Arts, 1617 Wazee Street

As you pass through that door, "Christine" is to your right. Immediately in front, in the center of the space, is a brand-new painted bronze called "Amber." This beautiful sculpture of an adolescent girl, dressed as a dancer in leotards, is markedly different from "Christine" and the rest of DeAndrea's more-familiar painted polyvinyl. With "Amber," for example, the hair is part of the casting, and not applied strand by strand. And "Amber" has painted eyes, rather than the glass eyes DeAndrea uses in his polyvinyl sculptures.

Although bronze isn't a new material for DeAndrea -- he did a few bronzes in the early 1980s -- over the past few years he's become increasingly interested in the medium. "I like getting into metal," he says, "and I have a lot of ideas that will go good with metal, but I will still do the plastic." (DeAndrea uses Tim Joseph's Fort Collins foundry for the bronze casting; Joseph is the son of Bill Joseph, DeAndrea's early role model.)

The front space features three more bronzes, busts rather than full figures, and 1993's "Garnet," a nude woman seated on a ready-made chair. More bronze busts appear in the narrow middle room, lined up on tall sculpture stands along one wall. Unlike the patinated busts in the front room, these have been painted realistically and are reminiscent of the ceramics of Luca della Robbia, a fifteenth century Renaissance sculptor. Opposite the busts is a fully reclining nude, "Karen," a painted polyvinyl done in 1993. "Karen" is lying face down, draped over a low sculpture stand.

There's a processional character to this space that's appropriate, considering the somber mood conjured up in the large back gallery. Only two sculptures, each lit in an otherwise darkened space, have been installed here. Ahead and to the left is the disturbing "Expulsion II," a 1992 painted polyvinyl sculpture of a standing woman, her arms attempting to hide her body. Her posture is tortured, conveying shame and fear. According to DeAndrea, the piece is based on Eve from Mosaccio's "Expulsion from Paradise," a fifteenth century Florentine painting. The other sculpture in the back is "American Icon," a 1990 painted polyvinyl based on the Kent State tragedy of 1970, when Ohio National Guardsmen gunned downed four unarmed student protesters. "American Icon" is a three-dimensional version of the most famous photo of the event, John Paul Filo's picture of a female student lamenting over the body of a young man lying face down on the ground. DeAndrea has painted the two-part sculpture, which really functions as an installation, in shades of black and white in honor of the original black-and-white photo. The effect is hair-raising.

John DeAndrea has gotten the royal treatment at Ron Judish Fine Arts, and he deserves it. The show is fabulous.

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