Big Tops

David Seiler's show riffs on carnivals, and a three-ring circus takes over the CVA.

The interactive aspect of the "Phreniti-scopes" is something found in many other Seiler works; usually the viewer must manipulate some kind of mechanical element in order to get the full impact of the piece. Adjacent to the three "Phrenitiscopes" is "The Amazing Madame Xan," a takeoff on a fortune-telling machine. To create this piece, Seiler placed a wigged mannequin head made up to look like a gypsy inside a glass case. Across the front of the case are wooden levers that, when pushed, reveal various fortunes, some of which are not too fortuitous. And speaking of unlucky, there's the "Wheel of More," a wheel of fortune with lots of bad things painted on it; when viewers spin it, they just might wind up having the pointer land on "Bankrupt" or even "You die."

Step Right Up! is extremely ambitious; it took some twenty assistants to pull off the "Circus of More." These artist-collaborators, who contributed not only elbow grease, but also some conceptual elements, are part of the Seiler-organized cooperative Teeter Totter Production Group, which was put together specifically for this show.

With the amount of work that Seiler, the Perry Weissman 3 and Teeter Totter put into this effort, it's a shame it will all have to be packed away in a couple of weeks. However, there will be a way to preserve the experience: A CD-DVD with the soundtrack and selected images will be available at the closing reception, slated for Friday, November 4, at Studio Aiello, from 6 to 9 p.m.

"The Amazing Madame Xan," by David Seiler, mixed 
"The Amazing Madame Xan," by David Seiler, mixed materials.
"Three Wheel Turn," by Mark Friday, mixed media.
"Three Wheel Turn," by Mark Friday, mixed media.


Step Right Up!
Through November 4, Studio Aiello, 3563 Walnut Street, 303-297-8166

Metro Effect
Through October 29, Metro State Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207

Over at the Metro State Center for Visual Art, there are three sculptures that look like lost elements from David Seiler's "Circus of More" -- and they are. The pieces are part of Metro Effect: Metro State Alumni Exhibition, a showcase of more than two dozen artists who graduated from Metropolitan State College, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. The juried exhibition comprises selections made by a panel that includes former CVA director Kathy Andrews and two art-faculty members, Greg Watts and Yuko Yagisawa.

The fact that the show was juried instead of being an invitational -- and, worse yet, juried by a committee -- is doubtless why it's all over the map. Despite the many fine things in it, the exhibition does not hold together and is pretty incoherent. Then again, the topic -- people who graduated from Metro -- is inevitably wide-ranging. The sample from which participants in the show were culled was presumably huge, as the college has been chugging along for four decades and the art department has become enormous in the past twenty years. Currently, there are over 800 art majors there.

One thing that struck me was the near total lack of ceramics. Oh, sure, there are a few examples, but nothing near what I expected, considering that the late, great Rodger Lang taught ceramics there for so many years.

Among the Metro alums tapped for the show are a number who, like Seiler, have been fixtures on the Denver art scene -- none more so than Phil Bender, the director of Pirate and the city's oldest living conceptualist. Bender has a whole gallery to himself, which he's filled with a grid of buckets in the center surrounded by a wall of shovels, one of brooms and another of ladders. It's classic Bender in style -- and one of the best things in the exhibit.

Another longtime art-scene habitué is Carlos Frésquez, who not only attended Metro as a student, but teaches there today. For Metro Effect, Frésquez created a site-specific altar -- which also qualifies as an early entry for the Day of the Dead season later this month. Then there are Mark Friday's great interactive wall pieces -- "Single Wheel Turn," "Three Wheel Turn" and "Corner Situations" -- in which levers and knobs allow viewers to change the elements of the abstract compositions. And Lauri Lynnxe Murphy's "Pimpalicious," an overcoat made of stuffed animals, is a tour de force.

Other works worth noting are those by Christine Gabrielle Graziano, Bill Starke, Marie Morrison Quinn, Natascha Seideneck, Marsha Wooley and Shaun Acton.

I'd be lying if I said that Metro Effect was a great show, or that it truly represents the big contribution that Metro has made to contemporary art in Denver. It would be true, though, to say that it's worth seeing anyway.

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