3-D Glances

Real and imagined depth is seen in displays at Robischon, Artyard and the White House.

It's hard to say what any of these drawings are about, even the ones with pronounced Asian elements. Perhaps Pfaff's subject is simply nature itself; her drawings are filled with flowers, trees, insects, birds and, in some cases, people. Whatever the subject is, though, the drawings are visually complex, and the show's not to be missed.

Also worth catching before it closes next week is Topology, the small and elegant Rokko Aoyama show at Artyard.

"Oxygen," by Judy Pfaff, mixed media on paper.
"Oxygen," by Judy Pfaff, mixed media on paper.


Through December 30, 303-298-7788.

Topology: Rokko Aoyama
Through December 9 at Artyard, 1251 Pearl Street, 303-777-3219

Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street

Born in Japan, Aoyama attended Parson's School of Design in New York many years ago, but she took a sabbatical from art while she raised her family. She returned to her studies and received a BFA from Colorado State University in Fort Collins in 1991; in 1998 she earned her MFA there. She currently lives and works in Fort Collins.

Aoyama is a newcomer to Denver's exhibition world: Her in-town premiere was only last year, at the now-closed Emmanuel Gallery, in a show organized by Mark Masuoka, who may thus claim to have discovered her. And she is quite a discovery because her conceptual work melds a variety of art currents -- notably pop art and minimalism -- in a very imaginative and biographical way.

The handful of pieces in this show were inspired by Japanese sweets called "manju or omanju," according to Aoyama's written statement. Aoyama gives a short history of the snack, which she describes as "soft and fluffy white flour...with luscious sweet azuki bean paste" that has been cooked by "a particular method of steaming." Her intent was to promote a cross-cultural dialogue through the use of the "exotic images of my native country, Japan, and successfully transform them into...artworks my audience in the West can recognize."

On the wall to the right is "Genus Venus #1," in which Aoyama has lined up oval, breast-shaped porcelain forms on a pair of cantilevered, anodized metal shelves. On the floor below is its companion piece, "Genus Venus #2," in which the same porcelain forms are cradled in clear plastic bubble wrap and then placed in the twelve divisions of a milk crate from Golden Crest dairy. The linear character of the shelves in "Genus Venus #1" and the crate's even divisions in "Genus Venus #2" dictate that the porcelain elements are arranged in a line or a grid. In this way, Aoyama creates pieces that are organic and geometric at the same time, making both sculptures post-minimalist in style.

Somewhat different is "O-Man-Ju," an installation that occupies a good deal of the Artyard gallery. In this piece, Aoyama has arranged a dozen large clay ovoids of slightly various dimensions in a random pattern across the floor. The bowling ball-sized ovoids are painted with shiny automotive paint in an array of hues, including silver, green and purple.

The last piece, "Genus X," is the only one that looks like it has an edible component, in line with the manju theme. A carefully crafted wooden tray on a recessed wooden base holds six puffy shapes finished in a shiny, pearly pink.

Aoyama's conceptual installations -- with their Japanese accent -- are thoughtful and elegant. And as little as there is in this very modestly sized show, there does seem to be a lot to look at.

Last month, a number of Denver's art-world dignitaries found themselves at a reception at the White House. The occasion was the end of a series of eight sculpture shows that have been presented in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden over the last eight years. The final show, which just closed, originated in Denver with pieces loaned by the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Outdoor Arts and the Ginny Williams Family Foundation. The shows, collectively titled Twentieth Century American Sculpture at the White House, were promoted by First Lady Hillary Clinton, who wrote in the brochure that her "first date" with Bill Clinton was in a sculpture garden and that she has "always loved sculpture."

"Hillary looked radiant," says Jim Robischon, the owner of the Robischon Gallery, who was among the Denverites in Washington. "She'd just won the Senate race a few days before, and she was just so up." Robischon went to Washington with his wife and business partner, Jennifer Doran, his son and his mother. "We were all thrilled to meet her," he adds.

Peggy Mangold, director of Artyard, was also impressed with the Senator-elect, especially when her husband, Bob Mangold, was singled out for special praise. "She loves kinetic art, and she spent a long time talking with Bob," Mangold says.

Interestingly -- or is that predictably? -- Bob Mangold was the only Colorado artist included in the show. Oh well, the DAM was in charge, and they're not much interested in Colorado sculpture. The Mangold piece came from the MOA, not the DAM, and was selected by MOA director Cynthia Madden Leitner.

But the prejudice against local art apparently didn't extend to Washington, as Mangold was one of the First Lady's favorites. It's a shame that other local sculptors like Chuck Parson, Andy Libertone or Lawrence Argent, to mention the most obvious examples, weren't given the same chance at national exposure.

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