I think the piece is great, though I do wish it had been a more appropriate animal for our region. Some years ago, Whiting displayed a buck and a doe done in this same way, and those would have linked the work to the context of the American West, which the rhino decidedly doesn't. It does, however, fit into the blue-animal subject-matter context in Denver's public sculpture, which include the blue bear at the Colorado Convention Center and the blue mustang out at DIA.

Farther down Broadway, at Walnut Street, is a two-part Whiting sculpture, "Pinkie and Mr. Green," which is done in the same style and depicts a conventionalized woman and man. The piece is near Plus Gallery, where owner Ivar Zeile is presenting the solo Primitives: New Sculpture by Mike Whiting, a temporary salute to the artist that coincides with the permanent installation of his pieces nearby.

The works in the show are somewhat different than "Rhino" and "Pinkie and Mr. Green" in that they are more formally complex, and more abstract. And though they are post-minimal, like a cross between Joel Shapiro and Donald Judd, they do make oblique references to primitive cultures. Several carry the title "Mask." The "Pyramid of the Rabbit," a geometric rabbit's head on a pyramid, and "Pyramid of the Cock," a rooster's head on a pyramid, bring in a reference to Meso-American art, but in a very abstract way.

"Rhino," by Mike Whiting, painted steel.
"Rhino," by Mike Whiting, painted steel.

Details

 Through December 18, Space Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, www.spacegallery.org.Through December 11, Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-5969, www.thesandraphillipsgallery.com.Through November 27, Plus Gallery, 2501 Larimer Street, 303-296-0927, www.plusgallery.com.

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The surfaces of these new pieces are different, too, with the automotive lacquers having been more heavily abused than before by being scuffed, ground down and repainted. A number of them look as though they've been vandalized by taggers. The results are a complicated array of colors that sometimes change as the planes of the forms do. It's so unlike the consistent color of "Rhino," with its monochrome of light blue — well, at least until the real taggers take their spray paint to it.

While "Rhino" and "Pinkie and Mr. Green" will be on view for a long time, Primitives will not, and it's definitely worth seeing, in particular because it indicates an advancement and a new direction for an artist whose work is now a part of Denver.

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