Art Review


Variations on the theme of contemporary portraiture are brought together in Heads, now at Studio Aiello (3563 Walnut Street, 303-297-8166). The show highlights six artists, four of whom have their work shown in depth. Gallery co-directors Tyler Aiello and Monica Petty Aiello organized the exhibit in cooperation with private dealer Ron Judish, who still represents many important artists even though his gallery is closed.

Heads is quite large, with nearly three dozen pieces presented; nonetheless, it barely fills the cavernous spaces that make up Studio Aiello. The problem is especially acute in the hangar-like second bay, which looks empty despite having photos lining the walls and a large installation on the floor. To look right, this space needs either a bunch of big sculptures or a couple more walls.

The installation in the middle of the room is by Marie e.v.b Gibbons of Arvada. It is composed of river rocks and ceramic heads that resemble them, all laid together in two half circles; there's also an audio component. It's too bad that Gibbons, who's known for her alternately whimsical and grotesque ceramic busts, wasn't asked to cart over a half dozen of those, because the second bay could really use them. Plus, the show, whose purported topic is the new portraiture, would have been more fully fleshed out with more sculpture.

The rest of the exhibit is made up of paintings and photos. Painter Marius Lehene, from Fort Collins, riffs on Spanish baroque in a group of pieces depicting black and white heads isolated on rich black fields. Famous painter John Hull, who lives south of Denver, is represented by three works from his 1990 series about baseball, including "Dugout at Twilight: Hap and Tewks," (above). New York photographer Ron Katz comes closest to doing old-fashioned portraits with his politically timely studies of the Afghan people, which he completed in 2002. Having less verisimilitude but also appealing are the blurry shots by Phoenix's Mehmet Dogu and the theatrically lighted ones by New Yorker Kevin Cooley.

The unwieldy if ambitious Heads closes on December 5.

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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