Lisa Spivak has put together a show that's so good you'll think you're at the Denver Art Museum's Close Range Gallery rather than the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design's Phillip J. Steele Gallery (6875 East Evans Avenue). An economical survey of the region's dean of modern sculpture, Robert Mangold: Realities of Motion stretches across five decades of the sculptor's work.
Although Mangold is best known for mammoth outdoor pieces, the exhibit features small tabletop examples and diminutive study maquettes for those larger works. One of the most interesting pieces is "Die Schone," a linear figure of a woman that's identified as Mangold's first welded sculpture, made when he was still living in Illinois in 1955. That was just before he settled permanently in Denver, a move that presaged a major stylistic shift for him. Unlike "Die Schone," his later work would avoid any reference to the figure, or to any other recognizable image.
Oddly, Mangold still refers to his non-referential style as "realism" -- not because it apes reality, but because the work is about three-dimensional space itself, and thus, it "really" exists in that space. "Anemotive Kinetic #1" (pictured) is the very first version of Mangold's most famous type of sculpture: Kinetic spherical forms made of freely moving bars with cones on the ends that are meant to catch the wind and move. In this piece, Mangold used wire, string and painted paper instead of the painted and polished steel used in later sculptures.
Another intriguing work is the model Mangold created for a proposed sculpture in Burns Park. It would have been the most ambitious piece in his recent series, the PTTSAAES, which purports to follow a particle in space, its imaginary trajectory immortalized by rusted tubular steel. Unfortunately, a disagreement between Mangold and the committee overseeing Burns Park meant that the full-sized version was never built.
The show, which is truly worth seeing, closes November 3.