The Auraria campus shifts into low gear during the summer, but that doesn't mean the Emmanuel Gallery (Lawrence Street Mall, 303-556-8337, www.emmanuelgallery.org) shuts down. On the contrary, Emmanuel uses the summer to stretch its wings, mounting ambitious shows. A perfect example is the current offering, Steve Wilson.
This handsome if crowded presentation features an in-depth look at Wilson's two-part oeuvre. On the main floor are his signature collages of found images, while the mezzanine holds his very different paintings. The accompanying catalogue includes images of works from the exhibit as well as essays by Wilson's fans.
What can be gleaned from these essays is that Wilson, a Denver artist, has been working since the 1960s and that he was part of a now mostly forgotten bohemia. I have to confess that I'd never heard of him until a couple of years ago, when Paul Harbaugh, the collector who sparked the organization of this show, recommended his work to me.
Publicity touts Wilson as a "Beat," but considering the time frame — the '60s and '70s — he's more of a hippie, even if he was influenced by the older Beats. This period is when the earliest pieces in the show were made, but a good deal of what's on view at Emmanuel was done during the past decade or so.
Wilson uses vintage printed images from old magazines to make his collages, which gives them a decidedly retro look. This characteristic is easy to see in "Cherry Girl" (pictured), a relatively simple composition by Wilson's standards.
As outlined in the catalogue by exhibition contributor David Tippit — the same guy who put together that collection of psychedelic posters now at the Denver Art Museum — Wilson's collages could be compared to those by the pioneers of the medium active in the early twentieth century. But Tippit points out that Wilson has done more photo-based collages over a greater span of years than anyone else.