Further evidence of the widespread representational painting craze that is all the rage right now is The Price of Illusion, a duet that features works by Denver painter Wes Magyar and those of nationally known Arizona painter Beverly McIver. The exhibit is the main attraction at the enormous Judish Fine Arts (3011 Vallejo Street, 303-571-5556), which is also presenting a group show of artists from the gallery's stable, and a solo, Attitudes, devoted to the very Weston-ish photos of a nude female model by Ron Katz.
The Price of Illusion begins with a series of six new Magyar paintings that are clearly based on photo montages. Judish installed the Magyars very sparely in the two back-to-back galleries straight ahead of the entry space, and they could easily have handled a few more paintings.
All of Magyar's paintings are set in downtown Denver, and in the backgrounds are the familiar glass and aluminum high-style oil-boom-era skyscrapers that line 17th Street. I like this geographic specificity and think it adds a nice touch. In the foreground of each composition are depictions of upscale downtown workers and visitors, who are dressed appropriately but behaving strangely. In "Collect" (above), for example, a businessman is gathering firewood.
As we proceed, the paintings come together to convey a message. What had at first seemed nonsensical becomes rational, providing a conceptual link that ties the pieces together thematically. The cumulative subject is human survival in an uncertain post-9/11 world. And most important, Magyar's noticing how inhospitable our cities are to people.
In the gallery that runs between the two spaces where the Magyars are installed, four paintings by McIver have been hung in a row on one wall. In these recent works, which are unreconstructed, 1980s-style neo-expressionism, McIver, an African-American woman, depicts herself in blackface, kissing a blond white man. The issue of identity as a black woman in a white-male-dominated society is a theme McIver has built her career on.