Art Review

Artbeat

Heading south out of Denver on University Boulevard is quite an experience. It's sort of like an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous -- minus the famous part. There's one swanky neighborhood after another, and they come together amorphously to form would-be towns such as Cherry Hills Village and Greenwood Village.

But down at the intersection of University and Orchard Road, there's evidence of an earlier, more humble settlement. On one side of the street is the old Grange Hall, and on the other side is a little red-brick schoolhouse; both have been beautifully preserved. The schoolhouse now serves as a rare public amenity in that section of metro Denver: It's the Curtis Arts and Humanities Center, which includes a couple of galleries.

On display now in the center's front gallery is Roland Bernier, a large solo exhibit of the artist's conceptual work in sculpture, installation, painting and photo-based pieces. In the back gallery is Helen Ragheb, featuring Ragheb's recent acrylics on paper. Both artists have been exhibiting in the Denver area since the 1980s.

The Bernier pieces are a continuation of his decades-long exploration of words as subject matter, but this show is filled with new and very experimental work -- of course, his shows always are. Especially cool, and clearly an outgrowth of his tour-de-force Denver Art Museum show last year, is "Pretty in Pink," an installation of words formed of gigantic letters made of dense -- and pink -- Styrofoam.

Ragheb also uses words in her paintings, but they're just one part of her visual vocabulary. The other elements include images of flowers and insects, hands, stars, the moon and geometric and architectonic forms, all of which are seen in "Nocturnal Puzzle" (above).

Both shows close on May 31.

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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