Art Review

Artbeat: Kate Petley and "Wild" Bill Amundson glow at Plus Gallery

The season opener at Plus Gallery (2501 Larimer Street, 720-394-8484, is Kate Petley: One Big Dream, on view in the main space. It's mostly made up of the Colorado-based artist's cast-acrylic abstractions but includes other sorts of work as well.

For a while, Petley was getting super-experimental, but with this show, she's back to her classic approach, at least in terms of the acrylic pieces. In these, the transparency and translucency of the materials — resin, mixed mediums, film and Plexiglas — become the key characteristics. The results look like paintings, but they aren't; they're really more like wall relief sculptures.

Petley's pieces are extremely beautiful, and in spite of the simplicity of her compositions, they're rich in visual interest. I was really taken with several of them, notably "Our Farmland," with its rich green field and yellow squiggle surrounded by gray forms, and "Lifeblood," with red shapes floating under a passage of gold. The single full-blown sculpture in the show, "Figment," is a suspension piece, hung in the front corner, and it goes beautifully with the wall pieces.

Upstairs at Plus, there's an added surprise: Wanted: "Wild" Bill Amundson, put together by Plus director Ivar Zeile to honor the artist as he leaves our area. Amundson has been a fixture on the Denver art scene for three decades, but earlier this week he returned to his old home state of Wisconsin.

The Zeile-organized salute begins with a portrait of Amundson done by Wes Magyar, which is a nice touch. It actually looks like him, and that's not the case with the several portraits Amundson has done of himself, which are somewhat grotesque. The best example of this is "Harlequin II" (pictured), in which Amundson has replaced his skin with the diamond pattern of a harlequin's costume.

The piece is among nearly thirty drawings by Amundson that Zeile included in this impromptu offering. All are done in Amundson's distinctive style, in which cartoonish imagery is unexpectedly carried out with a meticulous hand and with a practiced eye for details. And all represent sarcastic takes on today's society.

The Amundson display has been extended through October 2; the Petley show closes on October 16.

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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