Artbeat

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

As a part of the Leah Cohen Festival of Books and Authors at the Mizel Center (350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360), the Singer Gallery is fitted out with Illustrations by Leonard Baskin, Michelle Barnes and Barry Moser. The show was organized by gallery director Simon Zalkind and is made up of the unbound leaves of books for which the three artists have provided illustrations.

It begins with the late Baskin, who was one of the most prominent illustrators of the second half of the twentieth century. On view at Singer are striking woodcuts from his last major project: "Oresteia," completed only weeks before his death in 2000. Baskin created fifty prints to accompany The Oresteia trilogy, by Aeschylus, for a deluxe edition published by Gehenna Press.

The style is pure Baskin, in which strong abstract elements organize the representational images, as seen in "Agamemnon" (left). The print is effective by itself, even without the associated Aeschylus text that begins "As for me -- I have wept myself dry..." In addition to the prints, there's a sort of show-and-tell display case that demonstrates Baskin's process. A preliminary sketch is paired with the matching completed woodblock, and the corresponding print hangs on the wall nearby.

Opposite the Baskins is a group of small mixed-media paintings by Barnes depicting scenes from the Hebrew scriptures. Some are elaborately composed and recall the work of Baroque masters, such as Rembrandt. These dark, moody and ultimately romantic views of biblical figures are part of an ongoing project that will ultimately include 225 paintings for a planned interactive CD-ROM version of the Bible.

Completing the trio of artists is Moser, who has singlehandedly illustrated the Hebrew scriptures in a volume called The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible. The exhibit includes fifty of his fanatically meticulous wood engravings, and the details in these prints are downright photographic, making Moser's style the opposite of Baskin's. Moser's pictorial sense conjures up a seemingly infinite range of grays to convey his figures, whereas Baskin preferred strong black-and-white contrasts.

This handsome and thoughtful exhibit closes on New Year's Eve.

 
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