Art Review

Art Beat

Two solo shows now at the Spark Gallery take up the topic of realism -- but each takes a clearly different path.

Occupying a full two-thirds of the gallery, Robert Gratiot: Recent Paintings is made up of a group of striking hyper-realist compositions. Gratiot is particularly interested in meticulously reproducing the effect of reflected light on shiny or transparent surfaces. Three of his acrylic-on-canvas paintings concern piles of eyeglasses wrapped in cellophane; several others are about swirly glass marbles, both in and out of cellophane. Another of the artists favorite topics is the glass walls of modern buildings, as in Ess-DC: (seen above). In this painting, theres even a vaporous self-portrait, with the glass reflecting Gratiot taking the photo on which the painting is based.

A very different kind of realism is employed in Madeleine Dodge: New Work, a small show made up of only five paintings. The exhibit has been hung in a discreet room in the corner of the main Spark space. Four of the five paintings are still-life scenes set in the kitchen; the other is a murky landscape. Stylistically, all of the paintings are examples of traditional realism, but Dodge puts a contemporary spin on them with the use of integral sculptural steel frames. The found steel she uses is smudged, and her welds are sloppy -- two attributes that work beautifully here.

Spark is often the place to find a pair of interesting exhibits presented simultaneously -- but rarely do they work together as well as these two. Both close Sunday.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia