Winter Gardens

A notable Santa Fe artist joins two locals at Havu, while a New York star makes his Denver debut.

By clearly dividing his gallery into three distinct areas and installing the work of a different artist in each one, Bill Havu has finally come up with a successful scheme for laying out shows in his beautiful, custom-built space in the Golden Triangle. True, it's only slightly different from what he was doing before -- splitting the place into three indistinct areas -- but this little tweak has made a big difference.

In the group of spaces stretching from the main entrance to the area at the base of the grand staircase, Havu has installed Harriette Joffe, which is made up of more than twenty paintings, both oils and encaustics, by this established Santa Fe-based artist. The exhibit marks Joffe's first Denver solo, but her work was seen in town a few years ago in a group show at the Singer Gallery.

Joffe first studied art in the early 1950s at the distinguished Rhode Island School of Design and continued her education in the 1970s, earning an MFA at the City College of New York. She left the East Coast for Santa Fe in 1989.

"Untitled," by Joel Shapiro, welded steel.
"Untitled," by Joel Shapiro, welded steel.
"Tower Piece Drawing," by Lawrence Argent, graphite on vellum.
"Tower Piece Drawing," by Lawrence Argent, graphite on vellum.


Through February 24, 303-893-2360

Joel Shapiro: sculpture
Through May 29
Denver Performing Arts Complex, Speer Boulevard between Arapahoe and Champa streets, and the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000

William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street

Joffe's paintings depict crowded scenes of figures, many of them nude. The work seems firmly rooted in neo-expressionism, a type of painting that first arrived on the scene 25 years ago.

In the pair of paintings that lead off the Havu show, "Guarjira Bonita" and "Versos Para Ti," Joffe assembles a motley group of subjects, some partially nude, who are celebrating at a gala event. Nominally, the figures occupy three-dimensional space, but they're as flat as cutouts. Joffe's palette consists of muted colors, with dusty pinks and creamy light browns dominating. The paintings are all figural abstractions, and all have an approach to the composition that creates awkward tensions. If it wasn't for this aspect, they'd be too sweet, too cloying, which might be expected considering the nudes and party guests that fill her pictures.

In the space under the mezzanine is Bethany Kriegsman, which features drawings by Kriegsman, a well-known Golden artist and a faculty member at the University of Denver since 1985.

In recent years, Kriegsman has exhibited large, assembled constructions made of wood that has been stained with colored pigment to create mosaic-like wall and floor pieces. The inspiration is obvious: Kriegsman is an experienced block printer, and the elements of her constructions looked like inked blocks.

This show contains drawings that are visually similar to the wood constructions, but instead of bringing together stained blocks of wood, the artist has applied heavy coats of chalks and oil pastels to paper and then scraped down through the layers to make her incised images. Again, the link to print-making is clear: The drawings are carved just like printing blocks. There are many standouts in the show, but don't miss a separately hung group in the gallery's front-window niche that includes the gleaming "Middle of the Day" and its equally impressive companion, "End of the Day."

Upstairs on the mezzanine, Havu has put together Lawrence Argent, a small show that's all over the map in both medium and style and includes two distinct types of drawings and several types of sculpture. Like Kriegsman, this British-born artist teaches at DU, where he has headed up the sculpture department since 1993.

The Argent show seems to be a trip through some messy office in which the viewer finds various threads of ideas. The most impressive piece, and the only large sculpture here, is "Untitled (Tower Piece)." In a work that resembles a truncated arch or gate, Argent has placed an arching rectangular solid on a base made of I-beams and welded tubular steel. The metal structure is painted black. On both ends are pairs of spirals made of cast glass that are the color of Vaseline and are lighted from their interiors. Across from this sculpture is a presentation drawing of it done in graphite on vellum, one of three such drawings included.

Speaking of large sculptures, a group of outdoor ones by New York sculptor Joel Shapiro has been installed at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, with one additional piece in front of the Denver Art Museum. The al fresco exhibit, titled Joel Shapiro: sculpture, was curated by Martin Friedman and organized by the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas.

Although the show doesn't officially open until the middle of next month, most of the pieces are already in place, notably those on the lawn of the DPAC, which can easily be seen from Speer Boulevard. They're classic Shapiros in that they reconcile opposite points of view: Shapiro uses elongated rectangles, often evocative of structural beams, and clusters them to subtly make references to the figure, as in "Untitled," from 1989-90. Some date back to his heyday in the early 1980s.

The prominent lawn, which is officially called the Performing Arts Sculpture Park, has an interesting and checkered recent history and an uncertain, if guaranteed to be strange, future.

About five years ago, the lawn held a sculpture titled "Solar Fountain," a collaborative piece by the late Eric Orr and New Mexico artist Larry Bell. The sculpture was not a fountain at all, but an experimental conceptual piece meant to exploit solar energy for its visual effects. It almost never worked and was repeatedly vandalized. When it was in good repair, though, it was beautiful, taking the form of a monumental translucent cup rising from a quiet pool.

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