For his swan song as the outgoing director of the Phillip J. Steele Gallery at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (1600 Pierce Street, 303-225-8575, www.rmcad.edu), Eric Shumake is presenting the spectacular Stefan Kleinschuster: 10 Ways to Kill a Hero. Kleinschuster is one of the area's most exciting contemporary figural painters, but his method is highly abstract. Up close the paintings are simply a mass of lyrical brushwork, but from a short distance away, the imagery comes sharply into focus.
As the show's title suggests, these paintings are about memento mori; Kleinschuster has captured the moment of death, as in "X Marks the Spot" (pictured). As a unifying theme, this is something of a downer, but it's a topic that has persisted among artists for centuries. Kleinschuster has said that he was inspired by the paintings of the martyrs from the annals of European art history, but none of his pieces refers literally to those sources. As might be expected considering the lofty focus, the works are monumental in size and scale. The mood has been leavened to some extent, however, by bold colors, including orange, pink and lavender. For Kleinschuster, these cheery tones suggest the ideas of redemption and absolution, a conceptual reference to those martyr paintings of yore.
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Shumake has said he decided to leave RMCAD because it didn't have enough re–sources to allow him to keep presenting quality shows. This forced him to spend his own money and time to do the good job he's undeniably done. It also forced him to hit up his friends for help — as in this case, with Kleinschuster and Shumake being old college buddies.
Phillip J. Steele Gallery
I'm sorry to see Shumake leave, because he's one of a relative handful of gallery directors around who can pull off something as impressive as Stefan Kleinschuster: 10 Ways to Kill a Hero. See if I'm right or wrong before it closes on October 20.