Art Review

Artbeat

Last year, Kathy Andrews, gallery director at the Arvada Center (6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200) jumped ship to take on a similar gig at Metro's Center for the Visual Arts in LoDo. Although the current Arvada shows were set in the schedule by Andrews, they were put together without her direct involvement.

It was only last month that Jerry Gilmore came on board as Andrews's replacement, so it's too early to know what he will do. But he's already come up with one good idea: converting the center's theater lobby into ad hoc exhibition space. True, this area has its difficulties -- what with the walls being lined with doors -- but it is really big and hardly any worse of a display area than the Upper Galleries, where doors and even windows punctuate some walls, rendering them useless for hanging pieces.

The center's exhibition designer, Rudi Cerri, started with two strikes against him when he organized Then There Was, a group show on the theme of creation: Andrews was not there to help him, and he was stuck with those awful Upper Galleries. The third strike Cerri got all by himself: As it stands, the exhibit simply doesn't hold together.

Part of the problem is the wide array of styles Cerri chose to sample. What do Ken Peterson's funky tarpaper paintings have in common with the sophisticated neo-minimalist oils by Eric Emmanuel Rucker hanging a few feet away? Nothing, as Cerri's show amply demonstrates.

Another problem was the fault of the artists. Though Cerri was trying to build an exhibition on the theme of creation, he selected artists rather than works. Most simply brought existing stuff from their studios; only painter Sue Simon did anything specifically for this show. The Simon paintings, such as "Life Is..." (above), an acrylic on canvas, are marvelous, and represent some of the best work she's ever done; they're also some of the strongest pieces in Then There Was.

Other highlights include the ceramic sculptures by newcomer Vicky Smith, Homare Ikeda's neo-expressionist paintings and the odd, backlit geometric wall sculptures by Terry Maker.

Then There Was, with its weaknesses and its strengths, closes on Sunday, January 19.

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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