Art Review


A second floor is being added to the building that holds the Spark Gallery (900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200), with the idea of creating condos out of the added space. Despite the considerable inconvenience of the construction and the loss of nearly all nearby parking spots to construction workers, though, the shows must go on -- and they have.

Longtime Denver artist Elaine Ricklin is presenting Into the Night, a crowded exhibit that brings together photographs and related prints on the topic of dusk. Among the possibilities she explores are soft light, reflective light and shadows; one interesting image is a predominately amber color photo that's a self-portrait of sorts, with Ricklin recording her shadow cast against a very ugly front door.

Paired with the Ricklin show in the space facing Santa Fe is Patterns: Embroidery by Rob Watt, an impressive selection of embroidered pictures done over the past five years or so by this established Denver textile artist. Watt draws designs in pencil onto heavy silk and then, using silk thread in a wide array of rich shades, fills in the pictures with various embroidery stitches. The embroideries are then stretched and framed.

The embroideries are conceived as drawings or paintings, rather than as traditional needlework. Pictorially, they refer to pop culture, the Bible, antique book illustrations, photos, the comics and the artist's cat, as in "Portrait of Ricky" (above). Embroidery is a rarely seen medium in contemporary art, but that could be because a typical piece takes Watt fifty hours to make. "I watch a lot of TV and I embroider while I'm watching," he says. "I mean, a lot of TV."

Watt says that Edward Hopper, the 1930s scene painter of "Nighthawks" fame, is an important influence, and though I don't doubt that, it's hard to see it in his work. With a couple of exceptions, these pieces look more like early twentieth-century School of Paris stuff -- but, come to think of it, Hopper was looking at that material, too.

Into the Night and Patterns run through September 17 at Spark.

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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