Art Review


There's a very smart-looking solo exhibit called Amorphous Unifiers at the Edge Gallery (3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173). Made up of a series of closely associated works by longtime Edge member Dania Pettus, the show is installed in the co-op's front room.

Pettus calls her pieces "photographs," but that's not really accurate. Though each starts with photography, Pettus adds quite a bit before she's finished.

For instance, many include collage elements, and photomontage has been used in a few. Some have been scratched, others scribbled on. It looks as though most have been coated with glazes. Strictly speaking, Pettus leaves the realm of photography and enters the arena of photo-based art, which is related to painting. In fact, her works are as reminiscent of paintings and drawings as they are of photos.

Pettus explores the nude in both its male and female forms in these pieces. But they are too in-our-faces, too confrontational, to convey any eroticism. Take, for example, "blind man with," in which a male model spreads his legs, putting his genitals shamelessly out front. Even more sensationalistic is "the time between," which includes a montage of female nudes lined up across the middle. They have open vaginal wounds -- birthing scars? -- and their eyes have been blacked out with bars.

It's hard to say what these somewhat disturbing works are about, and Pettus's artist's statement, a jumble of trendy artspeak, does little to clear things up. The fact that they're hard to understand from a narrative perspective doesn't really matter, though, because visually, they're very interesting.

Also noteworthy are the handsome mountings Pettus used, which enhances the overall look of the series. The pieces are nailed -- nailed! -- to wooden boards, which are so heavily spray-painted with gloss black that, under the gallery's glaring spotlights, they almost seem flocked or covered in velvet. That's not just pretty; it's pretty cool, too.

The intriguing Amorphous Unifiers closes this 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