Art Review


Shots of mountains, cowboys and horses, and other subjects evocative of the American West make up most of Photographs by Barbara Van Cleve, the solo at the Camera Obscura Gallery (1309 Bannock Street, 303-623-4059). Born in Montana and living today in New Mexico, Van Cleve is a true Westerner, but she spent 25 years in the Midwest, teaching at DePaul University in the Chicago area.

Van Cleve has been showing her work in Denver for years, but Photographs marks the first time her work has been presented at Camera Obscura. The photos in the show span a couple of decades' worth of Van Cleve's efforts; the oldest dates back to the early 1980s, and the newest ones were done earlier this year.

The selection at Camera Obscura is wildly uneven, and some of the photos are pretty cheesy. But others are great, especially those that record the evening sky, such as "Star Shower" (above), one of several in which Van Cleve moved the camera while the shutter was open. Some other standout photos are the portraits of rodeo performers -- both the posed, static shots and the candid, action ones.

Less than a year ago, a small exhibition venue opened next door to Camera Obscura. It's called the Emil Nelson Gallery (1307 Bannock Street, 303-534-0996), and the current show there is The Nude in Art: Classical to Contemporary. Prints, drawings, photographs and sculptures make up the show, all of them depicting naked men and women. Some of the most interesting are the charcoal figure studies from the 1890s by Boston artist William Partridge Burpee. Also choice are the two lovely Pierre Bonnard prints from the early twentieth century. Most of the contemporary art in this show is neo-traditional, but there is an exception: new photos by Anyes Adams that demurely reveal both sexes in surrealistic-style photos that are downright hallucinatory.

Photographs by Barbara Van Cleve at Camera Obscura closes on February 27, while The Nude in Art: Classical to Contemporary at the Emil Nelson Gallery closes the next day, February 28.

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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