Art Review


A couple of times a year, Cherry Creek's Gallery M (2830 East Third Avenue, 303-331-8400) puts on a photography show that focuses on a single photographer using traditional methods. The big fall exhibit, Bob Kolbrener: Celebrations of Nature, is the latest example of this worthy program. The show features sumptuous, large-format black-and-white shots of the Western landscape, including "Lightning -- the Devil's Tower, Wyoming" (above).

These dramatic vistas have intrigued photographers for nearly two centuries; Kolbrener joined their ranks back in the late 1960s when the St. Louis-based commercial photographer took a trip to Yosemite in 1969 to study with Ansel Adams. And while he acknowledges his debt to Adams, he believes he was also influenced by Edward Weston, another key monument in the history of twentieth-century photography.

A need to bring home the bacon forced Kolbrener to keep at his commercial photography, but on the side, he continued his lifelong love affair with the West, which comes through loud and clear in the photos at Gallery M. He was finally able to leave his business and the Midwest behind for good in 1996 and move to California with his wife, Sharon, so he could devote himself full-time to fine-art photography.

Much like Adams, Kolbrener is interested in recording transitory atmospheric effects, such as mountain peaks being shrouded by clouds. Because his photos represent sights that exist only in brief moments, Kolbrener quotes Adams as saying that "if a photographer takes a half a dozen photos that count in a year, that's a pretty good crop." Lucky for us, Kolbrener's been at it for more than thirty years.

Kolbrener has a wonderful sense of composition and an uncanny ability to convey the theatricality of the majestic scenery. He perfectly executes the monumental gelatin silver prints, never monkeying up the negatives in the darkroom, but employing only straight developing methods.

The wonderful Bob Kolbrener runs through November 10 at Gallery M.

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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