Surplus, at Studio Aiello (3563 Walnut Street, 303-297-8166), is the big-tent title connecting three unrelated solos -- but just for good measure, each also has its own title. The show starts with Clare Cornell's Dress Formal, which combines photo-based pieces and sculptures. The sculptures from Cornell's "Lingual Discharge" series are really something. The bases are howitzer shells; on top of those are ready-made models of weapons altered with unlikely materials, such as sequins. In other words, the weapons are in drag; Cornell is making a statement about the anti-gay "Don't ask, don't tell" policies of the military. Hey, come to think of it, he's also commenting on the art world's anti-gay program -- "Always ask but never tell" -- because his pieces are not only weapons in drag; they're sculptures in drag, too. In the center space, Tyler Aiello has installed The Pillow People Project, which he's been working on for the past year or so. Aiello owns Studio Aiello, but in a weird formality, he is seen here courtesy of the Andenken Gallery, his official representative. The installation (seen above) is made up of scores of stuffed dolls, some of them with a wax finish and others done in luxurious and expensive patterned fabrics. The waxed ones are piled up, the patterned ones arranged on a shelf, and in between, small canvas ones have been hung on the wall as the stars on a giant, otherwise painted U.S. flag. "They're about art as a commodity," Aiello says. Unlike a typical installation, individual Pillow People dolls may be purchased separately.
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The last of the three artists in Surplus is Viviane Le Courtois, whose installation Junk Mail completely takes over the back space. Put me down on the list of those who are grateful that Le Courtois, who has long been interested in exploring waste, has switched from garbage to trash. Le Courtois invites visitors to bring their own junk mail to add to the pile so that the piece will change over time, another longtime interest for the artist.
The three-ring circus of Surplus at Studio Aiello closes on June 13. -- Michael Paglia