Art Review

Artbeat

There's a very nice show at Pirate right now called said and done. Installed in the main gallery, it is made up of four colored-pencil drawings and six oil paintings by Denver artist Wes Magyar, a contemporary realist.

Magyar's subject matter is the ordinary, if alienated, events in the lives of suburban people, which is why many associate his style with that of David Salle, a painter who came to fame in the 1980s. But I think Magyar is more closely aligned with early-twentieth-century realists like Raphael Soyer. The relationship to old-fashioned realism is especially keen in Magyar's painterly, almost impressionistic, approach to the face and the figure. In fact, I'd say he is more of a traditional painter gone wild than a contemporary one who's turned conservative.

The drawings look like preparatory studies for paintings, but only "Self Deception" has been transformed into a painting -- specifically, "said and done" (above), the oil on canvas that lends its name to the show.

Magyar demonstrates several key strengths in his intelligent and haunting work. His talent for conveying the illusion of three-dimensional space is right on target. Even better is his ability to convey the eerie glow of fluorescent lighting. Add the apparent psychological component, and the result is pretty strong.

I was surprised to learn that Magyar is participating in this summer's Cherry Creek Arts Festival. His moody work will really look out of place there among all the gewgaws and gimcracks. Come to think of it, that describes the situation at Pirate, too. The show closes this Sunday.

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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