Art Review

Bottle in the Smoke: Photographs by Jonathan Bayer

The Wilson Adams Gallery (1307 Bannock Street, 303-825-0950) opened this past summer in the same quaint little townhouse that used to be occupied by the Emil Nelson Gallery. The current show at the new place, Bottle in the Smoke: Photographs by Jonathan Bayer, is the kind of thing that could well have been presented at the old one. As it turns out, Wilson Adams is featuring this particular exhibit to honor a commitment made by Emil Nelson owner Hugo Anderson. "When Hugo told me the show had been promised to Jonathan last year, I thought, 'Why not?'" says Beth Nelson, the owner of Wilson Adams.

Bayer, son of modern master Herbert Bayer, grew up in Aspen but decades ago moved to London, where he still lives. Among his many talents, the senior Bayer was an accomplished photographer, which is perhaps why both of his sons, Jonathan and the late Javan, followed that same path.

The show at Wilson Adams is based on Jonathan Bayer's latest book of photos, titled Bottle in the Smoke and published in England in 2004. The book is on sale at Wilson Adams, and Bayer came to town last weekend to autograph copies of it. Both the show and the book feature black-and-white photos of milk bottles in different settings, such as Covent Gardens . Though Bayer has photographed a variety of subjects, the bottles are an ongoing interest for him, with some dating back to the 1970s. He does not arrange the bottles into still-life scenes but records them as he finds them, which is why his aesthetic recalls classic street photography of the '50s and '60s.

The Bayer show is in some sense the last gasp of the old Emil Nelson, and it doesn't accurately indicate the sensibility of Wilson Adams. But the second gallery holds something that does: the flamboyant work of DeDe LaRue, whose style is as far removed from Bayer's as possible. LaRue is the star of this gallery, and she's already been a moneymaker for it.

Bayer's elegant Bottle in the Smoke runs through November 1.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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