Photo Play

Camera works are celebrated in shows at the William Havu, Walker and Sandy Carson galleries.

You'd have to have been living under a rock for the past few weeks not to know that something's up in Denver's exhibition world. Everywhere you look, some gallery, museum or art center is hosting a show devoted to photography -- photojournalism, fashion, pin-up, fine art, experimental, and lots of things that aren't even photographs but are based on photographic methods. The occasion for all this shutterbugging is "The Educated Eye," the Southwestern regional meeting of the Society for Photographic Education being held at the Tivoli Student Union on the Auraria campus October 15 through 17.

It was dealer and photographer Mark Sink who came up with the idea of having a "Month of Photography," in which art venues would present shows coordinated with the SPE meetings. It's funny, but because of the vagaries of exhibition schedules, the "Month of Photography" does not coincide with a calendar month. Nearly all of the shows opened in mid-September and will be closed by mid-October, so I guess we're almost halfway through already.

There are so many great exhibits around that it's hard to know where to begin, and even harder to see them all. I'd recommend the following three, but there are a dozen others worth checking out.

"Unspoken," by jsun Van Tatenhove, digital image in 
crystal archive print.
"Unspoken," by jsun Van Tatenhove, digital image in crystal archive print.
"You Again?" by Randy Brown, archival carbon 
pigment inkjet print.
"You Again?" by Randy Brown, archival carbon pigment inkjet print.


Through October 16, William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360

Through November 6, Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955

Through October 16, Sandy Carson Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585

The William Havu Gallery only rarely displays photos, but it has gotten into the "Month of Photography" act with the prosaically titled Photography exhibition: Randy Brown, Lawrence Argent. Though it is very apparently a duet, Brown is given the lion's share of the space, with almost two dozen works, while Argent is represented by only four pieces.

The Browns are displayed in the window gallery to the right of the entrance and in the two spaces that unfold straight ahead. It makes sense to begin in the window, because that's where examples of his "Spirit of the Trees" series are installed. These images are signature-Brown self-portraits. In "Aboriginal Grasp," an archival silver print, Brown, who is seriously out of focus, seems to be running away through a grove of bare trees. The appeal of the photo is that it's essentially an abstract composition, with an anthropomorphic shape surrounded by strong diagonal lines.

The "Spirit of the Trees" pieces glow like jewels, with deep, rich blacks and a stunning array of gorgeous grays. From a certain standpoint, they anticipate Brown's more recent "Entrance/En-trance" series, which is displayed in the two spaces beyond the entrance; in another way, though, they represent a tremendous break with his past concerns. Like the "Spirit" photos, the "Entrance" images are self-portraits, but instead of being silver prints, they are carbon pigment inkjets. The "Entrance" photos are Brown's first foray into digital, which is partly why they have a crude quality that belies their high-tech origins.

Brown took shots of himself in the nude, striking dramatic poses. Then, using photo-altering software, he isolated the figure, reduced the details and, in some cases, covered his body with lines or spots. Take, for example, the paired photos "Yin" and "Yang," hanging opposite the front door. In "Yin," Brown, his body covered by a pattern, is seen bent over to the right, set against a solid black ground. As could be expected, "Yang" is the opposite, with Brown bending to the left against a solid white field. In another group of pieces from the "Entrance" series, Brown uses his own body as a decorative element, laying multiple images over one another to create patterns, as in "You Again?"

The four Argent C-prints have been hung opposite the information desk. The group of abstract photos is meant to give a taste of Argent's work in anticipation of a major exhibit coming up later this season at Havu. The photos, in heavy plastic frames that lend them a sculptural feeling, are close-ups of pacifier nipples. The palette of amber, green and cream is lovely, and those white frames are perfect.

In truth, pairing Brown with Argent doesn't really work, but Havu's floor plan allows the two to be displayed in completely separate places, so it's not as incoherent as it might sound.

That's close to what I'd say about Vapor, at Walker Fine Art, just up the block from Havu. Though it never gets off the ground as a group show, it's not as disjointed as it sounds.

Vapor includes the work of three artists: Colorado photographers L. L. Griffin and jsun Van Tatenhove, and Montana sculptor Brian Scott. Griffin's photos are installed in the front, Van Tatenhove's digital montages are in the center space, and Scott's sculptures are arranged throughout.

Griffin, who lives in Denver, has had her pieces published nationally and has done a wide variety of work over the years. Her latest efforts focus on clouds, a seemingly inexhaustible source of inspiration for artists. Using various non-photographic materials in her printing, Griffin does pieces on canvas, watercolor paper and unstretched silk panels that hang from the ceiling. These rough surfaces make her photos look like paintings, which is pretty neat. Also wonderful are the remarkable blues she captures. Though they are clearly based on the natural color of the sky, the shade has an unreal character -- especially in the free-hanging silks, which are the best of the group.

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