Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

Fang Lijun: Heads. China is definitely on the ascendancy internationally. Not only does the teeming economic powerhouse produce all the junk that can be found in a suburban Wal-Mart, but it's also turning out important artists who have taken the contemporary scene in the U.S. and Europe by storm. Adam Lerner, director of the Lab in Belmar, the infant museum and think tank in Lakewood, likes to follow every trend, and so he's chosen the work of Chinese contemporary artist Fang LiJun as this summer's featured attraction. Fang, who is best known as a painter, is represented by a monumental multi-panel painting, but the tour de force is an installation of tiny sculpted heads — 15,000 of them! The simplified heads have been cast in bronze and covered in gold leaf and mounted on thin steel rods. The relatively heavy bronze placed on top of the flexible steel causes the pieces to sway in the air currents produced when visitors walk through. There are also monumental sculptures about the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Through August 26, Laboratory of Art and Ideas in Belmar, 404 South Upham Street, Lakewood, 303-934-1777.

Gary Lynch. The Emmanuel Gallery, in association with the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, presents Gary Lynch: A Memorial Retrospective. Lynch, a Denver native who was born in 1953, died unexpectedly in the fall of 2005. A well-known fine-art photographer who served on the board of CPAC, Lynch took up the camera when he was a small child. Emmanuel is the perfect place for this memorial, since Lynch not only earned his B.A. at adjacent Metropolitan State College, but he also taught there, as well as at the other two Auraria institutions, the Community College of Denver and the University of Colorado at Denver. (He did his M.F.A. in photography off the campus, at the University of Denver.) Lynch was fascinated by the human figure and face, including his own, and was interested in creating special lighting effects that give some of his photos an otherworldly character. He also experimented with unlikely methods, including carbon printing. Though his professional career ranged over a mere ten years, he was almost universally regarded as a master of the photographic medium. Through July 20 at Emmanuel Gallery, Auraria campus, 303-556-8337.

Looking Up. This handsome group installation show at the Center for Visual Art was put together by interim director Jennifer Garner. The show's title, Looking Up, refers to the fact that all of the pieces are suspended from the ceiling, forcing viewers to look up. Garner chose four artists — three of whom work locally and one from the West Coast — and each was given a discrete space in which to display his or her pieces. The installation created by Jennifer Ghormley, "Fresh," comes first. It's composed of scores of pieces of red organza folded origami-style into diamond shapes and hung by thread from the ceiling. Beyond is the work of Anne Mudge, who is interested in creating expressive forms that extend into space. Next up is "Cojones," by Lawrence Argent, which has a visceral impact owing to its blood-red color and the implication of the title. Patrick Marold completes the quartet of cutting-edge talent with the unbelievably ambitious "Arcweight," which is made of fine steel cables outlining enormous inverted arching forms. Through July 21, Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207. Reviewed July 12.

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Manuel Neri. This solo at Robischon Gallery is a spectacular presentation filled with breathtaking sculptures and works on paper by Manuel Neri, the well-known California artist. One interesting fact about Neri is that he's that rare bird who is part of the current contemporary art scene and who also has a place in art history. Neri came of age as part of the 1960s funk movement in California and slowly transformed his work by adding a classical aesthetic, which he'd picked up during frequent working trips to Italy. The Robischon exhibit is dominated by large-scale sculptures, including a handful of monumental works in fragile plaster and some more durable bronzes. Despite all the heavy-duty expressiveness of Neri's surfaces and his efforts to simplify the form of the figure, there's no question that the subject of nearly all his pieces is a nude woman. In the Viewing Room, there's a little group show that's very compatible with the Neri feature, including C-print photos of blurry figures by Bill Armstrong and billboard-sized neo-expressionist oil-on-canvas paintings of nudes by Stefan Kleinschuster. Through July 21 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788. Reviewed May 24.

Roland Bernier. Unquestionably, Retrospective: 20 Years of Roland Bernier is among the very best offerings Walker Fine Art has ever put up. Bernier's career stretches back to the 1950s, but this show begins in the '80s, with a single piece from that time — an untitled acrylic on paper with a calligraphic quality. The use of calligraphy prefigures Bernier's later efforts, when words would be spelled out to become not only the subject, but also the form of his work. "Body Language," from 1996, and "Second Thoughts," from 1997, are nearly square wall-hung wooden rectangles covered with raised words wrapped in color photocopies. "Wall of Words" is an entire wall covered in words written in laser-cut, mirrored Plexiglas pieces. The whole thing is visually stunning. The most recent pieces are twelve sculptures from his "A Word in Hand" series that take the form of his own hands. Through July 21 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, 303-355-8955. Reviewed June 21.

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