Art Review

Art Review: Surface Tension and Other Special Effects at Havu

Part of a generation of modernists who emerged in northern New Mexico in the 1970s, Zachariah Rieke has been influenced by both abstract expressionism and Japanese calligraphy. A selection of his abstracts can be seen in Surface Tension, a group show at William Havu Gallery that combines paintings and sculpture.

To develop his imagery, Rieke applies paint to raw canvas in several ways: He pours it, lays it on with brooms, and transfers it via canvas fragments dipped in pigment. In the last case, the frayed edges of the fragments leave behind rows of repeated marks.

Perhaps most interestingly, Rieke often paints one side of the canvas with black forms, then flips the canvas over, so that the shadows of the black paint bleed through to what is now the front. These stains — grayish against the oatmeal color of the raw canvas — are used as ad hoc formal elements that are further enhanced with more black paint.

In the next spaces at Havu are paintings by Ryan Magyar, an emerging New York artist who is the twin brother of well-known Denver artist Wes Magyar. The two may look alike, but that’s not the case with their art. Wes is best known for contemporary realism, while Ryan creates non-objective compositions. To make his pieces, he exploits the liquid character of pigments to create illusions of space; these colored flows are held in place by hard-edged margins that are either geometric or, as seen in “Opjit,” jagged in shape.

Placed among the works of Rieke and Magyar are monumental sculptures by Swiss-born Boulder-based artist Roger Reutimann. These pieces, most of which are finished in a bright white, are either bronze or fiberglass. They’ve been meticulously constructed, with Reutimann capturing conventionalized representations of figures in motion.

If I have one criticism of Surface Tension, it’s that these Reutimanns have nothing to do with the Riekes or Magyars, so this particular trio doesn’t quite jell.

The Reutimanns would have worked better with the Emilio Lobato monotypes that are currently on display on the mezzanine in Twin Feather Meditations, because both artists are interested in employing simplified representations of real things. (Bill Havu and Nick Ryan will be happy to know that I’m not suggesting that they should have hauled the large and heavy Reutimanns upstairs.) In these new monotypes, Lobato, a major Denver artist, has adopted the symbol of two feathers to represent the unity of male and female characteristics within his own personality.

Both shows are set to close January 9 at Havu, 1040 Cherokee Street. Call 303-893-2360 or go to for more information.

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

Latest Stories