Monique Crine's Tony James show is a handsome exhibit of Western characters

Denver artist Monique Crine is known as much for her photos as she is for her remarkably accomplished photo-realist paintings. She doesn't feel, as might be assumed, that her work is based solely in photography, however. It also comes out of the moving-picture tradition, she says, especially classic films. This characteristic is emphatically laid out in Crine's latest outing, Tony James: New Paintings by Monique Crine, at Ironton Studios and Gallery (3636 Chestnut Place, www.irontonstudios.com).

Having moved to Colorado with her husband a few years ago, Crine became interested in Western imagery — in particular, the range of characters here. In fact, she actually did a gig as a bartender at the Grizzly Rose, where she had a chance to meet a lot of them. She's also interested in old Hollywood Westerns, specifically the work of John Ford. So this reference to movies provided entree for her to use conceptual content to link together the ten hyper-realist portraits in this show. This makes her otherwise traditional works examples of conceptual realism, since Crine (tip of the hat to Cindy Sherman) imagines the pieces as stills from a never-made classic Western conjured in her imagination.

To start the series, she needed to find her star — a real person — and she found him in Tony James, a soldier from Texas who is stationed in nearby Colorado Springs. Crine used Craigslist and advertised for a "Marlboro Man." The first portrait in the show — and the one that was used on the invitation — is titled, as are all the others, "Tony James" (pictured). It shows the rugged and wiry young guy sporting a blue cowboy hat, wearing a blue plaid flannel shirt and smoking a cigarette. He's a perfect combination of cowboy and redneck. In the various portraits, Tony is seen hanging out, drinking beer or walking around. There are a pair of paintings in which he's in silhouette in a tunnel, an image taken directly from Ford's The Searchers, starring John Wayne.

This handsome exhibit runs through January 14.

 
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