Act II

The MCA follows up its summer extravaganza with the perfect chaser.

This past summer, Cydney Payton, director of Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art, put together a mini-blockbuster, Decades of Influence: Colorado 1985-Present. In that exhibit -- which was displayed not only in the MCA's own facility, but also extended to Metro State's Center for Visual Art, to the Carol Keller Project Space and to the Gates Sculpture Triangle -- Payton used a broad brush to take on Colorado art history over the past twenty years. Decades was a big exhibit that included the work of more than seventy artists, but it was hardly big enough to truly survey that important period.

Decades was not just the most popular show that the MCA has ever presented; it was also the talk of the town. As far as I'm concerned, it was the smartest thing Payton has ever done. But it's hard to miss when you turn the spotlight on your own community. Another smart thing was the timing, with Decades being presented right before the DAM's new wing opened. Payton generated attention for the MCA at a time when it was hard for any of us to think of anything but the Hamilton building. And she did it again with Extended Remix, a tweaked Decades, opening it more than a month ago so that the show would be on display while all those art and architecture gliberati were in town for the Hamilton's ribbon-cutting.

Remixbegins out on the MCA sidewalk, and as visitors approach the entrance, Jim Green's sound piece, "Affirmative Greetings," utters welcoming if startling remarks. There's another Green inside, "Courtesy Phone," that connects directly to the artist. Green has done a number of these sound installations in the area, including the "Singing Sinks" at the DAM.

Installation view of 1,200 photos from the "Self 
Series," by Jason Patz.
Installation view of 1,200 photos from the "Self Series," by Jason Patz.

Details

Through October 29 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street, and the Gates Sculpture Triangle, 16th and Wewatta streets, 303-298-7554

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Once inside, the initial space showcases work by three artists who, like Green, have well-established art careers. Facing the entry is Bruce Price's "Fold, unfold, refold," a post-minimalist acrylic on canvas. Price takes apart pattern painting by creating an undulating three-dimensional abstraction. On the opposite wall is "Bubbly Dance," a mixed-media painting by Homare Ikeda, in which mounds of pigment are piled up to achieve a lyrical expressionist composition. The Ikeda is as different from the Price as night is from day, as is the third piece in this section, John DeAndrea's "Released," a hyper-realist sculpture of a nude woman made of polyvinyl. It's a brilliant start, because the pairing lays out Remix's broad scope of styles and aesthetic interests.

The exhibit continues to the left, where two cut-and-assembled paper pieces by Robert Brinker are paired with related works by Ana Maria Hernando. Brinker uses scribbles as the basis for his meticulously done cut paper and Mylar, while Hernando uses found embroidery patterns to build up collages of giant flowers. I loved the way the Brinkers worked with the Hernandos, and both provided the perfect lead-in to Clark Richert's "A/C Triacon," which hangs adjacent. Richert is one of Colorado's most important contemporary artists. And although his work has changed over the years, recent paintings such as "A/C Triacon," which is covered with fractured circles made of smaller circles, continue his lifelong interest in mathematics as an aesthetic device.

On a low stand in the middle of the floor are two of Lawrence Argent's very Brancusi-oid stone sculptures that are based on baby-bottle nipples. It's amazing how dignified and monumental Argent makes the mundane. Not far away is a metal sled loaded with logs that are partially wrapped by Carley Warren, a pioneer of installation art in the area. The Warren serves as something of a sentry for the work under the mezzanine.

First up in this area are pieces by hot emerging artist Matthew Larson, who's interested in conceptual art, such as intended-to-fail efforts to get into the Guinness World Records book. His efforts include such feats as "Most Boring Artist Statement" and "Most Crumpled Letter." Beyond the Larsons is a compelling video projection by Leafe Zales. Scores of metal washers are dropped onto a wooden floor, and the soundtrack is the resulting sounds. Also installed under the mezzanine is a painting by Paul Gillis, "Someone's Fishing in My Pond" in oil on canvas. Gillis is no newcomer, with a thirty-plus-year career under his belt, and the painting features his typical cartoon-like approach. Also common for Gillis are the disturbing aspects of the piece that are enhanced by his dark palette.

Around the corner in the central space is one of the strongest passages in Remix: Jason Patz's 1,200 photographic self-portraits, the culmination of a project spanning three years. It's compelling on any number of levels. There' a cinematic quality to the collection, with Patz playing various roles from grunge dude to punkster to straight arrow. There's also an all-over abstract shaped by the repeated images of his head, as well as a secondary abstract created by the swaths of color in the backgrounds. I've admired Patz's self-portraits since I first saw them in 2003, but I've never thought they looked better than they do in this stunning piece.

Across from the Patz is Steven Read's "The Color Channel," an installation of found television sets and antennae, as well as some custom software used to translate UHF signals into geometric abstractions on the TV screens. It's such a smart idea, especially the tension between the beat-up thrift-shop TVs and the high-tech interference of broadcast signals. Finishing out this space are three enigmatic photo enlargements by Patti Hallock that depict what appear to be a handle from an exercise bike, a pool table and some antlers. This is part of the artist's ongoing homage to, and indictment of, suburban life.

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