Artbeat

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

Walking into the front space at Pirate: a contemporary art oasis (3659 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058) is like stepping back into the early '90s when half the shows at the alternative galleries were installations of questionable quality. There's a reason for this: Wake Up Little Susie: Pregnancy & Power Before Roe v. Wade actually is one of those iffy-alternative-space installations that were done the early '90s. Obviously, the piece takes up the topic of abortion.

Artists Kathy Hutton, Cathleen Meadows and Kay Obering created it back in 1992, and since then it has made a coast-to-coast tour sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Women's Institute and other donors. But that tour is coming to an end, and the Pirate presentation is its last showing.

Stylistically, Wake Up Little Susie is thoroughly out of date, but the political cause it champions -- reproductive rights for women -- is not. Republican Senate candidate Pete Coors has come out against abortion, so the piece is as relevant now as it was more than a decade ago.

Soliloquies, a solo show featuring recent pieces by promising young representational painter Jenny Morgan, is installed in the Associates' space. The paintings in this show seem to be at the opposite pole politically from the feminist installation up front, because it features cheesecake pin-up depictions of a nude young woman -- who turns out to be the artist herself.

In what I believe is an attempt to give the paintings a more contemporary edge -- the nude female form is as old as the hills, after all -- Morgan crops them idiosyncratically so that only partial figures appear. I like the cropping idea, but it doesn't always work.

Morgan is a protegé of Irene Delka McCray, and she's surely picked up a lot of tricks of the trade from her. Like McCray, Morgan is very good at conveying flesh tones, as in the very John Singer Sargent-ish "Not Without Regret" (above), which is hands-down the best piece in the show. These Morgans are well done, which is surprising considering the fact that the artist is still in her twenties. Being nude self-portraits, the paintings are not only erotic, but also quite courageous.

Both shows run through August 22 at Pirate: a contemporary art oasis.

 
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