Testify and Memento Mori (remember death)

Arvada Center

The entire set of Upper Galleries at the Arvada Center (6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200) are given over to Testify, a solo featuring recent pieces by Colorado artist Riva Sweetrocket. Arvada Center curator and director of exhibitions Jerry Gilmore got to know Sweetrocket when the now-defunct Studio Aiello represented both. I missed Sweetrocket's efforts when they were exhibited at Aiello, so Testify was the first time I'd seen her work in depth. I have to say, it's very impressive -- if a little weird.

The show is made up entirely of large-format drawings done in chalk pastels. Sweetrocket manages to utterly control the powdered pigments and get almost-photographic realism in her depictions of everyday objects, people and animals. The style of her drawings is neo-pop, and there's more than a little tip of the hat to '60s great James Rosenquist. This is particularly apparent in the drawing "Sunny Side Up," a composition containing a sunflower, a fried egg and a pair of women's legs.

I loved some of these drawings, which are both exquisitely crafted and thoughtfully conceived. "Comfort Food" (left) -- essentially a vision of the apotheosis of a block of ramen noodles floating in the air surrounded by a halo, with twin lambs below and a pair of white doves above -- is incredible.

In the Theater Gallery beyond the Upper Galleries is Memento Mori (remember death), a solo of paintings by longtime Colorado artist Jennifer Parisi. The show's title strikes me as rather heavy in relation to the small, handsome abstracts that line the lobby wall.

Parisi took found panels and covered them with white, off-white or cream-colored paint. She then did tiny abstractions within small areas of these light-colored fields. Some have figural elements, such as "Opeñada" with its woman's head, while other paintings in the series are completely abstract. All have a cartoonish character, in part because of the light ground that surrounds the images.

Riva Sweetrocket's Testify and Jennifer Parisi's Memento Mori run through March 26 at the Arvada Center.

 
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