The oldest of the city's alternative spaces is Spark Gallery (1535 Platte Street, 303-455-4435), which is in a charming storefront in the historic Big Chief Block on the western edge of the Platte Valley. Spark has two dozen members but only two small exhibition rooms. That means it's pretty packed for this year's annual members show, Spark 2004, in which everyone is represented. Surprisingly, though, it's a lot less crowded than might be expected.
Among the members of Spark are several well-known artists and only a few emerging talents. This is what makes me think of Spark as the co-op of the establishment. Openings only rarely crop up, because Spark members rarely step down.
As with any show that brings together disparate work, Spark 2004 is more than a little uneven. There are some good things, but there are also some things that are downright awful. Among the highlights are a couple of those thoughtful Annalee Schorr pieces that lampoon the mass media. They mark a continuation of Schorr's ongoing series of photo enlargements of broadcast-television images. Nearby is Sue Simon's "Point of View" (above), an abstract based on mathematics, and just beyond is a tray full of edible-looking plastic cupcakes by Elaine Ricklin, who sensibly accompanied them with a sign warning people not to eat them. Across the room are three tiny abstractions by Barbara Carpenter that look like paintings but are actually Fujichrome Supergloss photographs.
Around the corner, in the back space, is a marvelous expressionistic monotype with chine collé panels by John Matlack. Patricia Aaron's piece, "Ball Buster II," is an installation in which colored bowling balls have been hung in a row from the ceiling with metal wires. The idea may sound absurd, but in reality, it's pretty attractive. (This bottom-heavy contraption looks dangerous to me, though, especially considering that the old ceiling is already crumbling in places. Yikes!)
Spark 2004 has been given a longer-than-usual run and will close on February 15.