One walks into Metropolitan State College of Denver's troubled Center for Visual Arts uneasily these days: The unceremonious booting of longtime director Sally Perisho, a ten-year veteran who's generally been credited with building the gallery, leaves the premises reeking of indecision. CVA Education Program Coordinator Amy Banker, for one, has high hopes as she helps hold down the fort, saying MSCD remains "supportive of the center" and has every intention of "continuing the kind of excellence that's been implemented." But even Banker is tight-lipped about the gallery's future.
For now, though, the cloud hanging over the Wazee Street salon can't dim the shimmering exuberance of its newest exhibit, a fine reminder of Perisho's directorial legacy and penchant for garnishing CVA walls with important art. African American Works on Paper opens Friday for a six-week run; it's the first of a full year of shows left on the departed Perisho's exhibition log.
Offering an astoundingly wide overview of the black art world, the touring exhibit of works by 64 contemporary artists includes portraits, abstractions, collages, prints, drawings and landscapes. They come from an unusual collection put together by Wes and Missy Cochran, a Georgia couple whose sheer love for the genre is evident in the breadth and scope of their gleanings. Motifs range from African and African-American folk imagery to the hard realities of urban life, but they don't stop there; all of the works are on paper, often boldly set in black and white against uncluttered, untouched neutral backgrounds, which enhances the strength of the exhibit.
In particular, an entire section of monochromatic portraits, typified by Elizabeth Catlett's "Cartas," seem to seethe beneath stark imagery with onion- skin layers of joy, hope, sadness and hardship. A near- ly flawless who's who of African-American artists, including Catlett, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Sam Gilliam, Works is the kind of exhibit this town will sorely miss should the CVA slip from its niche.