Drought Relief

Chuck Parson's summer solo at Artyard is refreshing -- even if the city's fountains aren't.

Parson's sculptures often look like machines, but rarely as much as this piece does, and the green pipes only heighten the comparison. It also reads like an effigy figure, though, something meant to be venerated, and that's a Parson characteristic, as well.

The other sculptures in the show are smaller, either floor pieces or tabletop works. They have a more expected totemic quality than do the monumental pieces. All provide variations on the same theme.

One is a construction made of steel and glass. The glass is used extensively to form both the principal vertical elements of the sculpture and the base. It seems strange to see a sheet of glass placed directly on the concrete floor with a heavy steel sculpture sitting on top of it -- won't it break at any minute? As unstable as it looks, however, there's no denying that the unlikely arrangement of materials delivers a big visual punch. Also effective is the use of green paint on two of the vertical members that run on either side of another sheet of glass, the edge of which glows in a similar green shade.

Sleekly modern, this Parson sculpture is by far the simplest composition in the series.
Sleekly modern, this Parson sculpture is by far the simplest composition in the series.
This monumental untitled piece by Chuck Parson is inside the gallery at Artyard.
This monumental untitled piece by Chuck Parson is inside the gallery at Artyard.


Through July 31, 303-777-3219
Artyard, 1251 South Pearl Street

Another of the floor sculptures has a more predictable material content, with stacked cast-concrete blocks forming the base; the steel is used above, and the glass on top of that.

A single sculpture has been placed around the corner, in the entrance to the studio portion of Artyard. This one is perhaps the best of the batch. In it, Parson has sandwiched a piece of glass between two pieces of metal, and the resulting form has been set on end and is sitting on a base formed from a fragment of an I-beam. It's sleekly modern, and by far the simplest composition in the series.

After looking around the show for a while, I realized that everything is made up of joined pairs -- of twin forms. As a result, I began to think of the World Trade Center. The connection was so subtly presented, I almost missed it, but once I thought of it, I also realized that the twin forms Parson employs evoked the actual shape of the Twin Towers: elongated vertical rectangles. When I asked Parson about this, he said, "It was a conscious decision. I wanted people to think of 9/11."

The terrorist attack of last year is one of two tragedies that Parson uses as subtexts in this body of work; the other is the less famous destruction of downtown Limon, Colorado, in a tornado more than a decade ago.

"The green color comes from Limon," says Parson, referring to the irrigated fields that surround the town on the high plains of Colorado and stand out on the otherwise parched brown prairie.

"That's what the series title is about -- that just like in New York and in Limon, life goes on," says Parson. And without a doubt, Parson will go on, continuing to create some of the most thought-provoking work around.

It really scorches me that the city's fountains are going to remain dry this summer.

The ostensible reason for leaving them this way is the drought, but as I hardly need to point out, Denver isn't Rome, so we're only talking about a measly fourteen fountains. The amount of water that will be saved in this way is minute -- especially considering the civic and aesthetic value of the fountains -- just over four million gallons. To put this in perspective, it's estimated that five million gallons are lost to leakages in the system at large...every day.

The decision to keep the fountains dry was made by James Mejia, head of Denver's Parks and Recreation department. Bad decisions are by now a long tradition at Parks and Rec, and though Mejia is surely a less malignant force than was his predecessor, the thoroughly disgraced B.J. Brooks, there's no denying that the city's marvelous parks, which are in terrible shape, will look even worse without the fountains running.

Making grand gestures that aren't likely to do any actual good seems to be a signature of Mejia's. That's because in his other role, as a Denver Public Schools boardmember, he has done the same thing.

Noting that 60 percent of Denver School of the Arts students are white while 60 percent of DPS students are minority, Mejia is playing political football with the on-the-move magnet school by suggesting that the entry process (auditions) is patently racist. (Has Mejia noticed that the racial makeup of the DSA almost exactly reflects that of the city at large? Has he taken a look at the racial mix of other DPS activities, like high school varsity sports?)

I think it's interesting that bureaucrats and politicians -- and Mejia is both -- so often promote themselves by working out society's troubles on the back of the arts. Water shortage? Turn off the fountains. Racial inequity? Bash the DSA. With instincts like these, Mejia just might wind up as a future mayor.

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