Northern Lights

Chuck Parson is the subject of a trio of solos in Fort Collins and Loveland.

Since then, Parson has shown his work at galleries and museums all over Denver, including the Arvada Center, the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the Museum of Outdoor Arts. For most of the 1990s, he has been represented by Denver's Artyard gallery.

Although it's too bad for those of us in town that his current shows are in the hinterlands, they are worth the trip. You'll want to start in Fort Collins at the Only Contemporary Art Gallery, which is located inside an architecture office called the Architects' Studio. (The firm underwrites the gallery's expenses. "It is a philanthropic operation," says Roz Spencer, OCA's director.)

Wall Constructions, Sculptures, Drawings includes more than two dozen pieces. Especially striking is the row of three closely related floor sculptures lined up near the entrance, with two more pieces displayed on either side of the front windows. The five pieces are all from the "Fragility of Vertical Space" series and are distinguished by numeric suffixes. Each has been constructed with ready-made materials and hardware, including sheets of steel, sheets of glass, nuts and bolts, and cast concrete blocks. They're very elegant.

"Vertical Moment," by Chuck Parson, installation.
"Vertical Moment," by Chuck Parson, installation.


Through March 10, 1-970-490-6100

Installation, Sculptures, Wall Constructions
Through February 9
Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, 201 South College Avenue, Fort Collins, 1-970-482-2787

Dimensional Drawings
Through March 11
Loveland Museum and Gallery, 503 North Lincoln Avenue, Loveland, 1-970-962-2410

Only Contemporary Art Gallery, 151 West Mountain Avenue, Fort Collins

Equally nice is "Monument to the Vertical Garden," which is made of cut-up I-beams joined by nuts and bolts. Sitting on a base outfitted with rubber wheels, the tremendously heavy piece can be moved easily.

Also strong are the many drawings and constructions that cover the walls. A couple of constructions feature taxicab-yellow plastic handles mounted inside and on Plexiglas shadow boxes. The handles are used to make a decorative motif across the front of the construction.

It's a short walk over to the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, where Installation, Sculptures, Wall Constructions is showing. Here, on the second floor, Parson has included only a handful of pieces. But there's a reason: Two of them are enormous, taking up more floor space than the entire show at OCA.

The first of these, at the bottom of the ramp, is titled "Crucifixion of the Individual Space." Using a combination of floor- and ceiling-mounted elements, Parson creates a ridged hieratic scheme reminiscent of an altar, an impression that is reinforced by the quasi-religious character of the title. At the back of the piece, partly obscured by hanging sheets of translucent (but not transparent) Plexiglas, is a traditional and fairly conventional drawing of a young woman held within a cruciform shape. Parson's college-age daughter modeled for the drawing. This representational image is a surprise coming from Parson, but he points out that he did realistic drawings and paintings for years.

The other large installation, "Vertical Moment," is a tour de force. Filling two-thirds of the large gallery, it is not just an installation, but a multisensual environment that includes both sights and sounds. It has the look of a high-tech device of some sort, and it appears slightly dangerous. Using six rows of eight upright steel posts painted white and set on flat metal bases, Parson has created a fence around the center of the piece. But it's a fence in fantasy only, because there are no horizontal members other than a piece of florescent yellow-green string that runs across the tops of the posts. In front of the entry to the piece, Parson has laid black foam carpet padding that squishes under your feet. On top of the padding are found metal grates that have been painted white. The viewer walks on the grates to get to the elevated center of the piece, below which Parson has placed a clear plastic baffle of the type used at the Boettcher Concert Hall. Above is a speaker connected to an amplifier that broadcasts the sounds of the viewers' movements back down to them.

The final phase of "Vertical Garden" is Dimensional Drawings, installed in the Foote Gallery on the lower level of the Loveland Museum and Gallery. The drawings here fall into several categories: presentation drawings representing various monumental sculptures Parson has done over the last decade; preparatory drawings; and working drawings that are likewise related to Parson's sculptures. Totally separate from these is a group of forty stand-alone drawings, as well as a handful of sketchbooks.

Parson has written that the distance between the three shows is part of his idea for "Vertical Garden," since the work is meant to convey space and refer to the landscape. Surely even he wouldn't suggest that the same could be said for the considerable distance between Denver and the two northern Colorado towns where you'll find these shows. You'll just have to make a day of it.

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