Chance Operations Gallery (232 East 20th Avenue, 303-894-0377) is a pretty funky place. In fact, I nominate it as the funkiest art venue around.

There's the requisite bohemian location, of course -- a shabby storefront in a row of shabby storefronts at the very shabby northeast end of downtown (you might want to lock your car if you go there). This crumbling neighborhood is unsung as a local art center, but, nonetheless, it's where many of Denver's best-known artists maintain their studios. With all that art right at hand, and with his connections on the East and West coasts, gallery director Steve Jacobs is able to fill the place with shows that are appropriately experimental.

In addition to his duties at the gallery, Jacobs is running for the Denver City Council seat Ed Thomas is vacating. But Jacobs is used to tilting at windmills: He opened Chance Operations just a few short weeks after 9/11. "It was a tough time to open," he acknowledges, "but I'm still here, and I'm doing it."

The current offering has the strange title of Complynnxe, a made-up word Jacobs coined by combining the names of Vincent Comparetto and Lauri Lynnxe Murphy -- the show's featured artists.

The twenty-something Comparetto is clearly an up-and-comer, based on his strong showing here. For Complynnxe, he has constructed a group of sixteen small rectangular light sculptures made of cut pieces of sheet-acrylic that are back-lit and overlaid with found images of buildings, skeletons and flowers. They're just great.

Murphy displays new works that mark a real departure for her. Instead of grids of decorated panels -- something she's known for -- Murphy's new fiber pieces are scattered freely across the walls in what she calls "exploded grids." Some are made of crocheted yarn in simple organic forms, while others are stuffed wool in elaborate organic forms (above). I like the wool pieces the best; they look like stuffed animals based on surrealist sculptures.

In spite of its name, Chance Operations does honor regular business hours; it's open Thursday through Saturday afternoons. Complynnxe runs through March 23.--Michael Paglia


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