Art Review


In the front room at Pirate: A Contemporary Art Oasis (3659 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058), Shovels, Brooms, Ladders And Rakes... features found-object installations created -- or would that be assembled? -- by Phil Bender. The literal personification of Denver's alternative scene, Bender was one of Pirate's founders, way back in the early '80s.

Bender creates his pieces by arranging similar objects in patterns on the wall or floor. In the past, he's employed things like checkerboards or hubcaps that he picked up in thrift stores or on the street. But Bender never alters these ad hoc art materials. He believes that art is about making choices rather than actually going to the trouble of making something.

The pieces in Shovels, Brooms, Ladders And Rakes... are made from -- you guessed it -- shovels, brooms, ladders and rakes. In places, the implements have been lined up against the wall, as in "18 Brooms" (above), but in other cases, they've been stacked up or arranged in grids. Interestingly, these latest efforts look pretty fresh -- especially considering that Bender has been milking this same idea for decades.

In the Associates' Space in the back is Orpheus, a show highlighting William Bregach's witty photomontages. In the best one of the lot (untitled, as is everything else) Bregach takes dozens of identical photos of a man whose outie navel looks like a tortellini (the shape of which is said to be based on Venus's navel) and puts them together with photos of actual tortellini, arranging them all in a patterned grid.

In the adjacent Treasure Chest is Crush, a neat high-concept exhibit by David Brady, who, like Bender, likes to find his work instead of making it. Brady's opening shot, hung outside the entrance, is "Stiffy," which is more than a little provocative. The artist has taken a pink organic lamp body and mounted it perpendicular to the wall, evoking an erect penis. The other pieces in the show, like the wadded-up waterbed mattress or the square of floor covering, are lots less adult-oriented.

All three shows at Pirate close on May 18.

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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