Sculptor Bob Mangold moved to Denver with his wife, Peggy, about fifty years ago and helped to lay the groundwork for the contemporary sculpture scene here today. At the time, sculpture was a fairly undeveloped medium compared to painting, printmaking and even ceramics. There are still many more painters than sculptors in Colorado, but the sculptors have almost caught up with the painters and have clearly surpassed the printers and potters.
Bob is an acknowledged local master known for his kinetic pieces and for sculptures that, though static, suggest movement; Peggy, meanwhile, runs the landmark gallery Artyard Contemporary Sculpture. True, Artyard at times closes for weeks or months, but when there's an exhibit on view there, as is the case right now with Patrick Marold, it's invariably one of the most worthwhile aesthetic events around.
Marold is a Denver native who's been creating sculpture and installations for the past ten years. During that time, he has emerged as one of the most exciting and creative talents in the state. A Fulbright Fellow in Iceland, where he studied sculpture and photography, Marold does a range of work in various styles. All of his creations are linked through his interest in the environment rather than what they look like.
Surely Marold's most famous piece is the "Windmill Project," an installation that was temporarily on display in the Vail Valley last year. For it, he created 2,700 windmills that he mounted on a hillside above Vail Country Club. The wind power was converted to electricity to turn on lights in each one. When the breeze was gentle, the transparent support tubes of the windmills dimly glowed, but when a strong wind blew, the lights pulsed brightly. It became internationally famous and won several awards.
Marold began to develop the idea when he lived in Iceland, with its long nights and constant winds; for him, the idea was to "map" the wind and digitize it so that it turned on the lights. Marold has called the result "a living body of light."
"Airfoils," at Northfield Stapleton, also employs alternative energy. The piece is a trio of stiles made from the tail fins of 737 aircraft fitted with solar panels that power a mechanism allowing the three principal elements to move.
Another body of Marold work involves suspending wires from the walls and ceilings in elaborate arrangements akin to spiderwebs. They relate to the alternative power pieces by also referring to natural forces — in this case, gravity and reflected light.
Finally, there are Marold's more conventional abstract sculptures, which are the kind of thing that make up the show at Artyard. These are made of carved pieces of wood, so the material itself links them to the other environmental works. Marold has gathered felled hardwood logs from trees that have come down in storms or otherwise met their fates (he's too green to have one cut down for his own use), so technically he's working with recycled materials. Then, pushing the natural references even further, he allows the shape of the log, its grain pattern and the cracks that happen to be there to be used as carving guides that determine the forms he comes up with.
The main part of the Artyard space has been sparely installed with just eight sculptures, many of which are small, and all of which are minimally detailed. This makes the entire exhibit seem airy and light, though the pieces themselves are solid and fairly dark. Just inside the door is "Balanced Wedge," made of alder wood. Marold has created an attenuated and somewhat curved wedge, with the narrow part sitting on the floor; as it rises, it gets wider. The tall, narrow piece with its tiny foot looks as though it will topple over at any minute. That's not really a potential problem with "Hoisted Arc," which is to the right; it also has a bottom that's smaller than its top, but it's held in place by a big steel chain that's anchored to the ceiling.
A curving, naturalistic shape is something that all of the pieces in this show share, but clearly the pièce de résistance is "Blackened Stack," displayed on a stand halfway back in the room. In it, Marold has stacked three carved maple boughs so that they are balanced on one another. The curves of the boughs create negative spaces between them. The most remarkable feature is the "Blackened" part, however, which Marold achieved by perfectly charring the elements, resulting in an incredibly deep and luxurious black color.
Other artists around here have finished their wooden sculptures by burning them, but Marold has perfected the technique to the point where just enough fire is used to produce the gorgeous fumed color but not so much that the wood turns to charcoal.
Marold is undoubtedly one of the Denver sculptors to watch, and the best way to do that right now is to catch his latest efforts in this fabulous solo at Artyard.
While the Marold exhibit is tremendously focused and all of the works in it are closely related to one another, a show across town at the Emmanuel Gallery on the Auraria campus is thoroughly unfocused and filled with pieces that have nothing to do with each other. Put together by Emmanuel director Shannon Corrigan, the exhibit includes Auraria faculty, other local sculptors and a couple of internationally famous artists. The choices don't make much sense, but Corrigan obviously knew that, since she gave the show the generic title of The Sculpture Show: Figure and Pattern.
The exhibit begins outside Emmanuel with a pair of signature sculptures by Chuck Parson bracketing the front entrance. Both are from his 2005 "Landscape Sonnet" series. Industrial-looking constructions made of steel, mirror, stone and acrylic, they take the form of vertical markers, and each has paired vertical elements that have been capped by a horizontal bar. Inside is an older Parson, "Monument to the Missing Person," a sleek vertical spire in acrylic, aluminum and steel. It has no biomorphic references that I can see, but it does refer to human scale — hence the title. Parson's work is not figural by any means, but it does reference the figure in many ways.
The human figure is of the utmost importance to Michael Brohman, who also has work on display inside and outside Emmanuel. In the garden behind the building is "Fear and Faith," while inside is "Journey." Done in cast bronze, the pieces take the form of a canoe made of small effigies of people bound together to form the sides of the boat. In these pieces, which have got to be Brohman's finest accomplishments, he takes on big topics. For "Fear and Faith," it's the Holocaust; for "Journey," it's the slave trade. Sometimes Brohman goes over the top with gross-out material, as in the confrontational "Prick," made of horse manure and porcupine quills, but when he puts his mind to it, he can create beautiful and moving works.
Among the other Colorado artists in The Sculpture Show are Rian Kerrane, Mark Guilbeau, Andy Miller, Viviane Le Courtois and Yuko Yagisawa. Manuel Neri and Elizabeth Catlett, with pieces loaned by local collectors Jill Wiltse and Kirk Brown, are the famous artists in the mix, with California's Hopi Breton and Canada's Gathie Falk filling out the roster.
Truth be told, The Sculpture Show looks almost as if it were the product of Emmanuel director Corrigan's shuffling a deck of cards with sculptures on them. On the other hand, the heterogeneity of the presentation allows for a lot of different visual experiences crammed together under the same roof, and, come to think of it, that's not so bad.
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