Cool Off!

Art made of cold, hard steel highlights two hot summer shows.

The Prentice and Cesark displays continue through August.

Several other shows organized in honor of the goldsmiths -- who were here for only one week -- are still up as well.

The beautifully installed Metal, at Ron Judish Fine Arts, is one of them. Last month, Judish rolled out the red carpet, accommodating no less than four tour buses full of conference attendees -- along with the Denver art crowd -- at Metal's opening reception. "It was unbelievable," recalls Judish. "The gallery has never been so crowded as it was that night."

"Nebula," by David Mazza, welded-steel sculpture.
"Nebula," by David Mazza, welded-steel sculpture.


Tim Prentice and Mark Cesark
Through August 31
Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street

Through August 31
Ron Judish Fine Arts, 3011 Vallejo Street


As at Robischon, there's a lot of cold metal on display here, in the form of some very cool artwork. There are no fans going, but the air-conditioning is on full throttle.

The show starts off in the large entryway, where a monumental Erick Johnson hangs from the ceiling. The piece, "Akimbo," is made of carved wood and found-metal components. The resulting form is evocatively organic, even though a lot of the parts are industrially made. The wood -- essentially skinned twigs with a rubbed-in painted finish -- is what gives "Akimbo" its organic character.

Johnson is a well-known Denver sculptor with work in many public and private collections.

Beyond the entryway is the first of a half-dozen spaces that make up the gallery. In each of these, Judish has installed a single artist, essentially making Metal a series of connected solos.

First up are kinetic sculptures by Robert Delaney, who happens to be my longtime partner. Westword policy forbids me to review his work, so, reluctantly, I need to skip to the second space, where Denver sculptor Michael Brohman's abstracted bronze figures are installed.

Brohman, who teaches sculpture at the University of Colorado's Denver campus, was trained as a ceramist and architect. In fact, he briefly practiced as an intern in the office of Humphries Poli Architects, one of Denver's most artistically distinguished firms. But Brohman's architectural history has little presence in his figural style, and these bronzes are much more in line with his ceramics background.

Only a handful of artists at UCD have a presence outside of Auraria, and Brohman is one of them.

His two sculptures in Metal are simplified, conventionalized figures -- a woman in "She," a man in "He" -- placed on flat rectangular bases. They recall the work of Alberto Giacometti, especially the way the proportions have been attenuated. Rich patinas are a hallmark of Brohman's work, and the golden-brown one he cooked up for "He" and "She" is gorgeous.

(There were originally three Brohmans in the show, but one of them, "Us," was sold; according to Judish, the purchasers refused to leave it until the show's end, and he relented and let them take it. The same thing happened earlier at Robischon with one of Tim Prentice's sculptures.

Art collectors want to take their purchases home, and art dealers want to keep their clients happy. So, like it or not, this is a new standard in the art world. Laudably, at both Judish and Robischon, replacement pieces were installed to fill the gaps.)

In the middle space at Judish are two immense sculptures, "Nebula" and "Stargazer," by budding Denver genius David Mazza. The twenty-something Mazza has an incredible vision that's tied to a remarkable level of technical skill.

For both pieces, Mazza mounted linear elements, steel pipes and steel beams in a grouping that cantilevers dramatically off a large central column set at a jaunty angle. There's no mistaking Mazza's relationship to the work of Mark di Suvero, an important source of inspiration for the young artist.

When the NBT Foundation and others gifted di Suvero's "Lao Tzu" to the Denver Art Museum, the DAM's Nancy Tieken pointed out that it raised the bar for public sculpture in Denver. Perhaps she anticipated -- I didn't -- the effect it would have on contemporary sculptors working in town. Clearly, Mazza's been enriched -- and so, in turn, have we.

Next are the creations of another talented emerging sculptor, Todd Oliver, who uses found machine parts and viewer-activated kinetic elements in his work.

In the steel-and-fiberglass "Woball," Oliver has built a rocking pyramidal shape balanced by ball bearings placed in a shallow bowl at the bottom. It's very sophisticated.

Even better is "Dead River," a spike constructed of steel and cast iron. The piece rests on a big rusted cog, and hanging down from the top are silver-colored rods of varying lengths that look and sound like chimes.

In the large back gallery at Judish, Ira Sherman's bizarre sculptures are on view. Sherman, a goldsmith, jeweler and sculptor, is an acknowledged master of Colorado art, despite the fact that he's the artistic corollary of a mad scientist. I say that because Sherman has long been interested in making pieces that interact with the human body in potentially hazardous ways.

In a sense, these sculptures, which are meant to be worn, are logical extensions of Sherman's jewelry; those pieces are on display in a case in the gallery's office.

In this latest group are what Sherman calls "anti-rape devices" -- more commonly known as chastity belts. The belts, some of them quite elaborate, are made of polished metal tubes, mechanical devices, colored plastic tubing and wire woven into patterns. In form, the belts refer directly to the female body and indirectly to the male body. Some of the imagery Sherman suggests are devices -- razors, saws -- meant to sever any penis that would enter the female orifice. Yikes!

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