Artbeat

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

The formal exhibition spaces at the Arvada Center (6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200) are called the Lower Galleries and the Upper Galleries; they're currently filled with impressive solos by Charles Parson and Emilio Lobato (see review, page 45). But there are more informal places at the center where art is exhibited. I'd like to dub one of these "the nook" and the other "the cranny" -- with the nook being the Atrium Loft and the cranny being the Theater Gallery.

In the nook, which sits about a story and a half above the main entrance, there is a group of "Fetem" sculptures by Bryan Andrews. Although Andrews is something of a minimalist and his forms are very simple, these sculptures are hard to see. The problem is their small scale and detailing, which both necessitate a close-up view. But because they're perched on this somewhat distant aerie, that's all but impossible.

The cranny is a much better place for an art show, which is maybe why it has the word 'gallery' in its name. That said, however, it feels more like a passageway than a gallery. The cranny is where the interesting Jason Needham: Swing Shift, made up of the artist's intimate paintings in his signature style, can be found.

Needham is doing figural abstraction with hard edges -- as seen in "High Noon" (right) -- that includes an admirably creative combination of aesthetic attributes. His work is based partly on comic-book illustrations and partly on pre-modernist prints from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I see Posada and Krazy Kat, along with a big dash of German Expressionism. An emerging artist, Needham has mostly shown his work at alternative spots, especially Zip 37, which makes this exhibit at the Arvada Center a true career breakthrough for him.

The strengths of Needham's paintings are many. He has tremendous control of the brush, creating crisp divisions between colors, and his surfaces are extremely even and finely done. Especially unusual are his awkward but somehow balanced compositions, which never miss.

The "Fetems" by Andrews and Needham's Swing Shift both come down November 21.

 
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