Earthly Delights

Page 2 of 3

Visitors enter the gallery through a door beyond the fine-art section of the store. Facing the entrance is the impressive, freestanding painted-bronze "Kiss," from 1991, which has been placed on a sculpture stand. For this piece, Foster formed a blobby organic shape to serve as a substantial base for a flat oval, which he has mounted on top; he finished each of the oval's sides with a different image. On the side facing the entrance, Foster divided the oval with diagonal lines and broad areas of color, both painted and patinated. On the other side is a line drawing of a couple kissing, done in a style that is more than a little School of Paris, á la Matisse or Chagall. The combination of minimal abstract compositions with simplified renderings of recognizable subjects is a signature that can be seen in many other Fosters in this show. But a few are purely abstract, and still others are completely representational.

Behind and to the right of "Kiss" is another, smaller bronze sculpture that is, confusingly, also named "Kiss." Despite the identical title, it is not a miniature version of the other "Kiss," but instead is a unique piece from 1990. In fact, all of the work in this show is one of a kind; Foster does not work in editions.

Complementing the bronzes are a group of the artist's monotypes. These ink-on-paper works were made on a gigantic monoprint press built by Foster himself. In 1999's "Spears," three curving color bars running parallel to one another have an instantaneous and gestural quality. In 1999's "Tulips," the flower is also quickly done in an expressionist style. In a sense, the monoprints are studies for the painted and inscribed elements seen on the sculptures.

It is a surprise, since Foster is best known as a ceramic artist, that this show doesn't include any ceramics (though three wall plaques are stored in the back room).

Foster, who has maintained a Colorado studio since 1974, rarely exhibits his work in the area, which makes Jim Foster an unusual opportunity to see the efforts of a notable northern Colorado artist.

Believe it or not, there is a strange connection between Harvest: landscapes from the heartland, which runs through the holidays at the William Havu Gallery and is essentially about contemporary landscape painting, and the abstract pieces in Color, Line and Form and Jim Foster. But the coincidental relationship is made just outside the front door, and not in the show itself.

Installed on either side of the main entrance to the Havu gallery are two large sculptures by Jerry Wingren. As it happens, Wingren is an abstract sculptor working in Boulder, and he's been in his studio for decades. But unlike those other longtime hinterlanders -- Vielehr, Wilson and Foster -- Wingren is widely known in Denver, since he exhibits frequently around the area, most recently in Colorado Abstraction, an important show at the Arvada Center that closed last month. In fact, "Tacoma Ovoid # 2," from 1998-1999, which is now at Havu's, was previously installed outside the main entrance to the Arvada Center.

Harvest, which is a group show, begins inside the gallery, though many paintings can be seen from the sidewalk through Havu's large display windows.

On the left are multimedia abstracts by Ron Pokrasso that incorporate trees. Pokrasso was born in New York and earned his MFA at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In the 1970s he visited Santa Fe, but it wasn't until the mid-1980s that he became a part of the art scene there. In 1993 he took over as the master printer at the Printmaking Center at the College of Santa Fe, a post he retains to this day.

Several of his characteristic monotypes, which he alters after printing by adding paint, drawing and collage elements, are on display in Harvest. So are a number of mixed-media paintings that do not include printed parts. Three of these, "One Tree," "Two Tree" and "Three Tree," all from 1999, are hung together around the corner to the left of the front door. All three are basically the same. On a painterly abstract-expressionist ground done in light colors, loosely painted silhouettes of trees float in space across the center. The strong image of the bare trees suggests the graphic character of prints, and this connects Pokrasso's paintings to his more typical works on paper.

This group is hung on the north end of the two-story central room, but most of this space is devoted to the second artist featured in Harvest, Stephen Dinsmore. A Minnesota painter, Dinsmore maintains ties to his home state of Nebraska, and it was in Kearney, at the Museum of Nebraska Art, that gallery director Bill Havu examined many of the Dinsmore paintings that are included in the show. Although Havu has known Dinsmore's work for a long time and has sold small pieces of his over the years, this is the first time he has presented Dinsmore in any depth, and it's the first time he's had major paintings to exhibit.

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