Gwen Laine overtakes Carson/van Straaten Gallery

Denver artist Gwen Laine is one of the four artists selected to help celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Foothills Art Center in Golden (see review, page 46). But she's also completely taken over the Carson/van Straaten Gallery (760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585, www.sandycarsongallery.com) with her solo, Passing Through.

The enormous show includes the title piece, a monumental installation called "Passing Through" (pictured), and several rooms full of photos. Formerly known for her photography, Laine has only recently embraced installation. And interestingly enough, some of these photos are precisely the ones that led her to make the big change.

The Eureka moment came with a series of photos done a few years ago that represented something of a creative block. Looking back, Laine realized that she'd been building installations to photograph — and had trapped the three-dimensional pieces in two-dimensional formats in the process. The answer was obvious: She started to make the installations as ends in themselves. In a smart twist on the whole thing, she now uses photos to create her installations where formerly she made art the other way around.

In "Passing Through," which was exhibited earlier this year at the FAC Modern, the downtown branch of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Laine takes a conceptual approach to a crowd of people holding balloons; the people are merely suggested, represented by photos of their hands which have been printed on transparent Mylar, then separately framed and suspended from the ceiling.

It's the same idea she carried out in "Silent Origin II" at Foothills, but the framed photos in "Passing Through" are hanging roughly parallel to the ceiling and floor instead of rigidly perpendicular to them. Also different is the inclusion of helium-filled balloons held against the ceiling in "Passing Through" and unlike the hands in the piece, they are represented not by photos but by the actual balloons.

Passing Through, which runs through August 30, is extremely impressive. Laine succeeds in putting her mark on Carson/van Straaten (formerly the Sandy Carson Gallery) and that's a key factor in what makes the piece so great.

 
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