Art

Cool Off!

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Cesark is from the Western Slope and has exhibited there for the last decade or so. He collects scraps of metal at junkyards and then selects certain ones to use in a single work. In the three wall sculptures that make up this mini-show, Cesark reveals a wonderful instinct for the arrangement of forms and colors. His simple groupings are enriched by the varied surface effects that are a result of the weathered paint.

The Prentice and Cesark displays continue through August.

Several other shows organized in honor of the goldsmiths -- who were here for only one week -- are still up as well.

The beautifully installed Metal, at Ron Judish Fine Arts, is one of them. Last month, Judish rolled out the red carpet, accommodating no less than four tour buses full of conference attendees -- along with the Denver art crowd -- at Metal's opening reception. "It was unbelievable," recalls Judish. "The gallery has never been so crowded as it was that night."

As at Robischon, there's a lot of cold metal on display here, in the form of some very cool artwork. There are no fans going, but the air-conditioning is on full throttle.

The show starts off in the large entryway, where a monumental Erick Johnson hangs from the ceiling. The piece, "Akimbo," is made of carved wood and found-metal components. The resulting form is evocatively organic, even though a lot of the parts are industrially made. The wood -- essentially skinned twigs with a rubbed-in painted finish -- is what gives "Akimbo" its organic character.

Johnson is a well-known Denver sculptor with work in many public and private collections.

Beyond the entryway is the first of a half-dozen spaces that make up the gallery. In each of these, Judish has installed a single artist, essentially making Metal a series of connected solos.

First up are kinetic sculptures by Robert Delaney, who happens to be my longtime partner. Westword policy forbids me to review his work, so, reluctantly, I need to skip to the second space, where Denver sculptor Michael Brohman's abstracted bronze figures are installed.

Brohman, who teaches sculpture at the University of Colorado's Denver campus, was trained as a ceramist and architect. In fact, he briefly practiced as an intern in the office of Humphries Poli Architects, one of Denver's most artistically distinguished firms. But Brohman's architectural history has little presence in his figural style, and these bronzes are much more in line with his ceramics background.

Only a handful of artists at UCD have a presence outside of Auraria, and Brohman is one of them.

His two sculptures in Metal are simplified, conventionalized figures -- a woman in "She," a man in "He" -- placed on flat rectangular bases. They recall the work of Alberto Giacometti, especially the way the proportions have been attenuated. Rich patinas are a hallmark of Brohman's work, and the golden-brown one he cooked up for "He" and "She" is gorgeous.



(There were originally three Brohmans in the show, but one of them, "Us," was sold; according to Judish, the purchasers refused to leave it until the show's end, and he relented and let them take it. The same thing happened earlier at Robischon with one of Tim Prentice's sculptures.

Art collectors want to take their purchases home, and art dealers want to keep their clients happy. So, like it or not, this is a new standard in the art world. Laudably, at both Judish and Robischon, replacement pieces were installed to fill the gaps.)

In the middle space at Judish are two immense sculptures, "Nebula" and "Stargazer," by budding Denver genius David Mazza. The twenty-something Mazza has an incredible vision that's tied to a remarkable level of technical skill.

For both pieces, Mazza mounted linear elements, steel pipes and steel beams in a grouping that cantilevers dramatically off a large central column set at a jaunty angle. There's no mistaking Mazza's relationship to the work of Mark di Suvero, an important source of inspiration for the young artist.

When the NBT Foundation and others gifted di Suvero's "Lao Tzu" to the Denver Art Museum, the DAM's Nancy Tieken pointed out that it raised the bar for public sculpture in Denver. Perhaps she anticipated -- I didn't -- the effect it would have on contemporary sculptors working in town. Clearly, Mazza's been enriched -- and so, in turn, have we.

Next are the creations of another talented emerging sculptor, Todd Oliver, who uses found machine parts and viewer-activated kinetic elements in his work.

In the steel-and-fiberglass "Woball," Oliver has built a rocking pyramidal shape balanced by ball bearings placed in a shallow bowl at the bottom. It's very sophisticated.

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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