Hot rods, tattoos, nudie flicks and cartoons -- such are the sources of inspiration for lowbrow art, a movement on display at tonight's opening reception for Cute, Cuddly and Curvaceous, the inaugural show at D.C. Gallery. The concept of "lowbrow" art originated in the surf and custom-car culture of Southern California and encompasses a wide range of styles that focus on the figurative rather than the abstract, the pop instead of the pretentious. "It's definitely going to be 100 percent pop culture and lowbrow," says Dina Castillo, D.C.'s owner and director. "Every time I look at what these artists bring in, I'm just amazed. They're technically proficient. They're innovative. It just blows me away."
Cute showcases the work of three artists: Chicago's Mitch O'Connell, Seattle's Lisa Petrucci and Denver's own Kirsten Easthope. O'Connell -- one of the genre's heaviest hitters -- works in a slick, lurid vein based on vintage commercial illustration and comic books. Petrucci's creations are a playful paradox between antique toys and '50s pinup girls, while Easthope (the granddaughter of a pro bowler) uses real bowling pins as canvases upon which to paint a rogue's gallery of superheroines and Vegas-dwelling vamps. As Castillo enthuses, "I love looking at imagery from my childhood, like toys and comic books and old TV shows."
Castillo, former director of LoDo's Th'Ink Tank Gallery, decided to open D.C. after Th'Ink Tank relocated earlier this year and began concentrating more on tattooing and local art. Now, along with gallery manager Doug Seaton, she plans on putting lowbrow creations on the map in Colorado. "It's the first of its kind as a stand-alone gallery in Denver," she explains, "and my goal is to make it one of the premier galleries in the country."
D.C. Gallery is located at 125 South Broadway, right at the beginning of a stretch of such arty destinations as Rule Gallery and American Vogue. "The whole Broadway area really caters to the kind of clientele that's interested in this genre," notes Castillo. You can't miss D.C.: Just look for the O'Connell-concocted sign of a Chihuahua wielding a paintbrush, a lit cigarette and a martini glass.
The reception is free and runs from 7 to 10 p.m.; the show continues through June 3. Call 303-733-4401 or visit www.dc-gallery.com for more information. -- Jason Heller
Leftists aim their best ads at the prez
One blond moppet in a pink dress pushes a vacuum cleaner; a miniature garbage-can jockey slings trash bags; a ponytailed urchin works mechanically on an assembly line in "Child's Play," Denverite Charlie Fisher's anti-Bush television ad, before the punchline: "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?" The commercial took first place in a national contest -- an open call to involve the masses in politics -- sponsored by the MoveOn.org Voter Fund, a left-leaning, grassroots activist group. The panel of judges included Jack Black, James Carville, Margaret Cho, Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, Moby, Michael Moore, Russell Simmons, Michael Stipe and Eddie Vedder. The postscript? MoveOn.org wanted to run the ad during this year's Super Bowl and had the funds to do so, but CBS nixed it.
To each his own: If the ad can't air on network television, MoveOn.org can certainly take it to the people. Tonight at 7 p.m. at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th Street, Boulder's Present Tense Film Soiree Series will host Bush in 30 Seconds. The compilation of 56 of the contest's best submissions also includes footage from Bush in 30 Seconds Live, which features appearances by activist celebrities, including some of the aforementioned judges. In addition, Free Speech TV's Shannon Service will present video footage from her recent trip to Iraq. For tickets, $6, call 303-786-7030 or log on to www.bouldertheater.com. -- Susan Froyd
Getting a Tan
Amy Tan is practically a cult figure. The modern yet organic author is a natural storyteller who has inherited centuries of tale-telling. Tan, the famed creator of The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter's Daughter, writes novels that dance with autobiography and autobiographies fleshed out by fiction. Everything comes out in an unbroken circle like a mandala of life infused with ancient values and contemporary intent. But she's also a wild woman who dresses up in thigh-high boots and leather about once a year to sing and strut with her author/rock-band buddies, the Rock Bottom Remainders. The ensemble also includes such literary luminaries as Stephen King and Dave Barry strumming guitars. How can you help but love her? Tan should have plenty to talk about tonight when she speaks at the Buell Theatre as part of the Unique Lives and Experience Lecture Series. To wit: She just returned from China; she's got a new non-fiction book out, The Opposite of Fate; she's had recent encounters with the voices of the ancients; and she's fought a debilitating battle in recent years with Lyme disease. Tan talks at 8 p.m.; the Buell is at 14th and Curtis streets. For tickets, $60 to $115 -- and going fast -- call 1-877-872-8124. -- Susan Froyd
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Room With 100 Views
The Painter's Eye offers a real eyeful
Get a jump on that summer road trip with a stop at David Cook Fine Art, where The Painter's Eye: Colorado and the West takes you through a hundred years of Western art and just as many stunning vistas. "It's going to be arguably the nicest one we've done," says Norm Anderson, director of the five-year-old gallery, which was still receiving paintings a week out. Arriving last Friday, for example: another Birger Sandzen (there are eight in the show, including the one pictured here) called "Edge of the Range," a 36-by-48-inch painting of Manitou done in 1919. "It's fun for us, because at the last minute, you find more things to throw in there."
And that's after searching through estates and collections for months, looking for the best of the Broadmoor School as well as other great artists who painted Colorado and the West from the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth. Those efforts paid off with a show of over a hundred paintings, drawings and prints, by everyone from Charles Partridge Adams to Eve Drewelowe. Although David Cook's emphasis has always been "the best of the older Colorado painters," Anderson says, "it's starting to get the attention it deserves."
It should get plenty when the show opens at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the gallery, 1637 Wazee Street. For more information, go to www.davidcookfineart.com. -- Patricia Calhoun