Open to any artist living in Colorado, Art of the State 2019 attracted 1,555 submissions from 566 artists. Parson was a juror, along with Joy Armstrong, curator at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, and Daisy McGowan, director of the galleries at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs; together they whittled the submissions down to 154 pieces by 135 artists. The result is an enormous show that reveals that the state has a well-established and varied abstract scene, and an even wider-ranging interest in some type of representational imagery, from conceptual realism to all-but-traditional work. There’s surprisingly little alternative media included and not much sculpture, though a few three-dimensional installations make oversized statements. Everything else is some kind of two-dimensional work, including paintings, prints and photos.
Moving even further afield from the classics is the ballpoint pen-on-paper work by Matt O’Neill, which strikes a cross between the heroics of abstract expressionism and the mindlessness of the doodles of high school kids. That makes it a parody of abstraction rather than an exemplar of the approach.
Other works pushing at the edges of abstraction include Kelton Osborn’s installation, a series of elaborate geometric forms that have been simply painted and mounted on the three walls of an open niche. In another niche is Justin Price’s striking installation of concrete blocks piled into a pyramidal stack. Using toned-up colors, Price painted stripes on the blocks, some of which are crumbling. Jennifer Ivanovic also deconstructs geometry in her piece, with triangular components covered with stripes that can be assembled in myriad ways.
Among the works that trade in recognizable imagery are a moody, magic-realist painting by Kevin Sloan depicting a hooded falcon perched on an outcropping in a body of water, and Susan Blake’s two enigmatic landscapes incorporating renderings of wrinkled fabric into the natural setting. Also noteworthy is Eleanor Sabin’s view of a forest with a screen of colorful two-by-fours floating at the picture plane. Sloan, Blake and Sabin are consummate realists, but they interrupt the credible illusions they conjure by introducing non-credible content.
More pop-influenced is photo-based work by Gary Emrich that raises environmental issues via bottled-water packaging, as well as Mark Penner-Howell’s mixed-media painting of a female fighter pilot, her mask serving as a veil, revealing only her eyes. And there’s Gregory Santos’s print of a skull in a cowboy hat placed above crossed axes, like the international symbol for poison set on a field of chain-link fencing.
Pop culture also informs several weird little machines, such as the hand-cranked flip-card animation contraption by Dave Seiler. Mark Gibson’s pseudo-pinball machine has only one bumper, and when the ball hits it, you hear not the usual bells, but the sounds of machine-gun bullets. It’s very intense. Violent imagery is also part of the beautifully carved wooden ray gun by Phillip Mann, which has a replica of a pistol handle and a cord with wooden plug ends, a nice touch. The ray gun has no function, but it implies its would-be use. The same is not true for Martin Joseph’s Jetson-y bric-a-brac assembled from found elements; they don’t look like they work, and they don’t.
Created from an open-jury call, every Art of the State is inevitably an aesthetic free-for-all. But improbably, 2019’s edition also surveys nearly the entire span of artistic expression being carried out by contemporary artists around the state.
Art of the State 2019, through March 31 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org.