Art Review


Well-established Denver artist Michael Brohman takes an idiosyncratic route to contemporary sculpture in his solo, ME AND MY SHADOW, now at Pirate (3659 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058). Brohman has a preference for working in old-fashioned ways, using metal casting as his method and the nude human figure as his subject. However, he chooses to do something different with these old standbys, which is surely what makes this show such an unnerving visual experience.

Upon entering Pirate's main gallery, visitors are confronted by the freak-show atmosphere Brohman has conjured up. Many of his pieces are creepy, but none more so than the images of infants. Seemingly everywhere you look, there's a deformed or mutated baby, which is not exactly viewer-friendly, to say the least. There are the armless conjoined twins tethered to a chain ladder in the title piece, "Me and My Shadow," a detail of which is seen here. Then there are the fetuses on shelves in the window space. But the biggest gross-outs of all are Brohman's "Catalogued Chickadees," which are plucked chickens with baby heads lined up on metal shelves. These "Chickadees" are hideous enough to give you nightmares.

Amazingly enough, there are also some beautiful things in the show. The absolute standout is "Fear and Faith," a life-sized canoe constructed out of more than a thousand small bronze stick figures. The huge piece is a technical tour de force, revealing Brohman's high level of casting and joining skills. "Return," a striking cast-iron sculpture of a nude male torso standing in a rusted steel tray filled with water, is also great.

In Pirate's Treasure Chest, Brohman invited Rian Kerrane to exhibit her installation, Subdivision, a group of cage-like constructions made of found materials, including open umbrellas and doll parts. Those doll parts, especially the heads, make Subdivision an appropriate companion to ME AND MY SHADOW.

Both shows and the other attractions currently at Pirate close 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