Clear Horizons

Contemporary and traditional art can be seen at the William Havu Gallery.

"These paintings are a continuation of what I've been doing," says Felix, "and they're very experimental; I'm stretching out into more stylized shapes from nature, and I'm having a lot of fun doing it."

For those who are more comfortable with signature Felix landscapes, the show includes a number of those, too. This classic work involves conventionalized views of the mountains. Though not as severe as the geometric views, many of these scenes are likewise imaginary, and they actually appear to be artfully disguised abstractions. Examples include "The Flatirons," set in Boulder, and "The Canyon," set in southern Colorado or northern New Mexico.

All of Felix's paintings evince his skill as a painter. The margins between the colors are tightly done and have a hard edge. Within those margins, complicated colors have been blended from multiple hues, thus expressing his talent as a colorist. The "white" clouds are really pink and blue, the "green" hillsides actually yellow and blue.

Still Life With Sun Flowers," by Sushe Felix, acrylic with mixed media.
Still Life With Sun Flowers," by Sushe Felix, acrylic with mixed media.
Still Life With Sun Flowers," by Sushe Felix, acrylic with mixed media.
Still Life With Sun Flowers," by Sushe Felix, acrylic with mixed media.


Through February 23
William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street

The third artist in the show is Rita Derjue, whose pieces -- also contemporary landscapes -- are in the space beneath the mezzanine. Derjue is new to the gallery, but she's been exhibiting her watercolors and acrylics in the area for more than thirty years. The paintings here are mostly country scenes set around Colorado, although there's one of Tuscany and one of the Italian Alps. Derjue's technique is brushy and sketchy, and she prefers toned-up, non-naturalistic colors. This surely reflects her training in Munich, the home of German expressionism. "Red House & Barn," an acrylic on paper, consists of a crowded group of houses in the foreground and mountains in the background; the piece is composed of a riot of colors, from barn red to taxicab yellow.

These expressive works on paper by Derjue are good, if perhaps too traditional.

Even more traditional -- and therefore definitely too traditional -- are the works hung on the mezzanine, by Lucy Congdon. These green-and-brown paintings are a surprise coming from Congdon, because they're conservative and modest. Can this be the same Lucy Congdon who does those neat modernist sculptures like the one sitting right outside Havu's front door? Apparently.

The show is clearly uneven, but by separating the artists as he did last time, director Havu has begun to deal more intelligently with the large and various spaces contained within his gallery.

In the weeks since Sheila Kaplan, president of the Metropolitan State College of Denver, fired Center for the Visual Arts director Sally Perisho ("Going Down?", January 3), a couple of things have happened. Most notably, a group of well-known artists and others have sent letters to Kaplan denouncing the firing. In addition, a petition is being circulated in Perisho's defense and is to be presented to Kaplan and to the trustees of the State Colleges of Colorado.

As heartwarming as these efforts are, they are unlikely to accomplish their desired effect -- to get Perisho back at the helm of the CVA. But it's nice to see the commotion anyway.

Kaplan's only reply has been to send out a letter of her own to the CVA's advisory council members (and a similar missive in response to letters sent by protesters) in which she tersely writes that she can't, for "professional and legal reasons," comment on Perisho's firing. Kaplan has also said that a national search will be launched to find Perisho's replacement. The new director, according to Kaplan, will bring the CVA to "the next level of excellence and prominence." Hopefully that doesn't mean the next level down.

The idea for a national search bugs me, because things like this almost never work. There are exceptions, I know: Lewis Sharp, the masterful director of the Denver Art Museum, was hired out of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. But more often, the national search leads to a Kenworth Moffett, briefly the undistinguished director of Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art. The problem is that the winner of a national search will be, as likely as not, responding to the next national search as soon as possible.

On the other hand, think of how often a local -- like Perisho herself -- takes over and then does a really good job. Simon Zalkind at the Singer Gallery springs to mind, as does Cydney Payton at the MCA. It makes sense that those who already have a commitment to the area would also have a commitment to the area's culture. That's something that can't be said for the products of a national search. Of course, Metro left itself with no choice: Everybody around here knows how Perisho was treated after a decade of distinguished work, so I'm sure very few locals will apply.

Here's one last CVA item: Though a disgruntled staffer felt that Perisho did little more than "unpack some boxes," Metro's administrators now know better. They had to scramble to find someone to install the traveling African American Works on Paper exhibit, now on display. Their first choice -- Jim Robischon of the Robischon Gallery, which is next door to the CVA -- begged off; he had his own show to hang. So Ann Daley, a curator at the DAM and an old friend of Perisho's, wound up doing it.

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