Class Act

DU students use the Logan Collection to create a first-rate art show at the Myhren.

But one small problem arose: After the show's course was set, the Logans sold off the Currin. (Their collection is very fluid, and they buy and sell things constantly.) As a result, when it came time to install the show -- which the class members couldn't have done anyway, because, for insurance reasons, only people certified for handling art could touch the pieces -- Chanzit had to make many changes to the proposed hanging of the exhibit.

What struck me first, bearing in mind that the organizers were in their early twenties, was the show's conservative slant. Many of the works are examples of contemporary realism, including a few examples of hyperrealism. Representational art is as traditional as it gets, though the works here are also credible from a contemporary standpoint. In a sense, this predominance of representational imagery reflects the prevailing character of the Logan-collected pieces. However, Chanzit, who knows the collections like the back of her hand, says the couple simply acquire what they like, with no other ideology informing their selections.

As viewers enter the Myhren, a huge triptych by Singapore-born New York artist Su-en Wong confronts them. It depicts an Asian woman hanging by her arms from a bar. The painting, "Hale Navy," done in 2000, is a self-portrait. Though it is sexually charged -- Wong's naked breasts are at dead center and she's wearing white lacy panties -- the arduous act of hanging adds the idea of struggle, which works against any eroticism. It turns out that deconstructing Westerners' erotic notions of Asian women is what Wong's work is all about.

Detail of "Seven Shades of Suicide Blond," by Jack 
Pierson, photo montage.
Detail of "Seven Shades of Suicide Blond," by Jack Pierson, photo montage.
"The Parabolist," by Bo Bartlett, oil on linen.
"The Parabolist," by Bo Bartlett, oil on linen.

Details

Through March 11, Victoria H. Myhren Gallery, 2121 East Asbury Avenue, 303- 871-2846

"Hale Navy" reveals how open-ended the theme "in limbo" is. It seems like anything with any narrative content at all qualified -- in particular if it contained, as this painting does, psychological implications.

This flexible approach to the theme is further expressed by the two mammoth paintings by Bo Bartlett, which, like "Hale Navy," are examples of contemporary realism. The Bartlett paintings are magnificent and utterly painterly, but they only relate to the IN LIMBO theme tangentially. In 1997's "The Wedding Picture," a bride and groom are seen cutting a wedding cake out on the plains; in "The Parabolist," from 1999, a young man is seen from behind, looking at a tornado. Both pieces have extremely active surfaces, which is unexpected considering all the fanatical attention to detail Bartlett also embraces. Chanzit points out that these features made the Bartletts difficult to light properly, and if you get too close to them, the images disappear behind the shadows of the brushwork.

There are several photo-based pieces -- including some photo-realist paintings -- but the clear standouts are the seven collages done in 1999 by Jack Pierson, collectively titled "Seven Shades of Suicide Blond." Pierson has taken color photos of a young man's face, cut them up and reassembled them. Some are made of multiple images of the same feature, such as the young man's eyes, while others are almost entirely abstract, being assembled from the background edges of the photos. "Seven Shades of Suicide Blond" has been imaginatively hung in two rows, one above another. It looks fabulous, even if it represents quite a stylistic leap from the Wong and the Bartletts.

There are only two sculptures in the show: A very creepy and incredibly lifelike "Untitled (Man Under Cardigan)," from 1998, in which British artist Ron Mueck made a troll-like man out of fiberglass, silicon and polyurethane foam, among other materials; and Palestinian-born British artist Mona Hatoum's "Untitled (Wheelchair II)," a non-functional wheelchair from 1999 with spikes on the handles and a tilted seat. It's a minor complaint, but Hatoum's conceptual sculpture could use some context in this show. The Mueck, on the other hand, fits right in because it relates well to the representational paintings all around.

It's often said that too many cooks spoil the broth, and that's usually true, but it's not the case with IN LIMBO. Despite having fifteen budding curators, the show came out looking for all the world like a full-fledged museum show. Quite an accomplishment for a class project, wouldn't you say?

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