Artbeat

Brief sketches of what's happening in the Denver art scene.

To put it mildly, Denver's never been much of a sculpture town. Until about five years ago, you could count on two hands the accomplished contemporary sculptors working around here. But then something changed, and suddenly a whole troupe of emerging sculptors appeared.

In recent months, this influx has reached critical mass, and it seems like every time I turn around, one or another of these artists is exhibiting ambitious work somewhere in the area. Most of the new talents are working in neo-modernist modes, but the adventurous Andy Miller is much more of a postmodernist. His Bathroom People, on display outside the Museum of Contemporary Art (1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554), makes the case clearly.

Bathroom People is a monumental two-part sculpture depicting archetypal male and female figures based on the universal signage seen on restroom doors. The simple line profile of a conventionalized female is indicated by the suggestion of a skirt; the male is indicated by the suggestion of pants. To carry the sculptures out, Miller has chosen an unlikely, though evocative, pair of materials: pigskin and steel. The resulting patina on hide and metal is marvelous.

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Since the rise of modernism, artists have been trying to reconcile the figure, the ultimate traditional subject matter, with contemporary art. This effort has resulted in varying degrees of success. Miller's idea -- to utterly simplify the forms and simultaneously refer to mundane experience -- is elegant conceptually as well as visually, proof that he's really on to something. Bathroom People comes down on January 6.

 
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