Artbeat

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

As I wandered through the Bethany Kriegsman solo, aptly named Treasure Island, at the William Havu Gallery (1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360), it occurred to me that the Golden-based artist just might be the most overlooked first-rate artist in the region. As evidence of this, despite the fact that her show is absolutely fantastic, few have come to see it.

It's something of a mystery why Kriegsman has such a low profile, especially since she's been exhibiting her work locally from the time she moved here, in 1985. She came to the Mile High City to take a job as an art professor at the University of Denver, where she still teaches drawing and printmaking.

Maybe people haven't been checking it out because it's been so insufferably hot, but then again, Havu is air-conditioned. Whatever the reason for the tepid reception, it's too bad, both for Kriegsman and for the many who are missing out on the riches of Treasure Island.

Kriegsman is a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute and Washington University, and is best known for her printmaking. The Havu show does include some prints -- in particular, a group of six spectacular collographs -- but it's mostly filled with drawings and paintings.

Stylistically, Kriegsman's work refers to classic mid-twentieth-century modernism, and the artist cites Joan Miró, Paul Klee and Jean Dubuffet as being important to this body of work. It's easy to see such influences in the engaging oil pastel on paper titled "Ordering the World" (right), which faces the main entrance and so is the first thing viewers see when they enter the gallery.

I'd add Constantin Brancusi to the list of art-historical mentors, at least regarding the severe minimalist sculptures that are a revelation coming from Kriegsman, who isn't known to work in the medium. These finely finished bronzes, which are in the evocative form of attenuated finials, are taken directly from shapes found in her two-dimensional pieces.

Treasure Island at Havu is really worth taking in, but there's little more than a week left to do so: The show is scheduled to close on July 30.

 
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