Artbeat

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

The members of Denver's oldest artist cooperative, Spark Gallery (900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200), have had a hard time figuring out how to effectively use the 1,200-square-foot space that they moved into last year. Every show I've seen there has been awkwardly installed, because there's not even one good wall on which to hang things.

Happily for the current duo, the exhibition space has been reformulated, so it looks better than usual -- although there are still some changes to be made. In the west gallery is Folds, a display of ceramic sculptures by Judith Cohn; in the east gallery is Odes, made up of mixed-media drawings and boxes by Jean Schiff.

Cohn made her local reputation in the thoroughly non-commercial realm of installation art. Though the pieces in Folds appear to be elements from her installations, they are actually individual sculptures. Several of these, called "Tangles," are made up of strips of clay piled up in mounds; others, called "Folds," resemble rolled-up newspapers.

The elegant expressionism of Cohn's ceramics makes for quite a contrast to Schiff's meticulous -- if funky -- drawings and related boxes. Schiff is also a longtime Sparkster and has been part of the Denver art scene for decades. In the 1960s she was a student of the late Vance Kirkland at the University of Denver, and then a protegé of Luis Eades at the University of Colorado. She taught art at Metropolitan State College of Denver for nearly thirty years.

To say that Schiff's work is idiosyncratic would be an understatement. She combines fantasy and reality in amazingly dense compositions. These pieces remind me of pictures in storybooks, only partly because Schiff often uses characters taken from them -- such as Pinocchio, as seen above in "Geppetto's Workshop," a Joseph Cornell-ish box. There is also an appearance by Dudley Do-Right, among others.

Cohn's Folds and Schiff's Odes close at Spark on March 19.

 
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