Edge is filled to the rafters with artist pairings

Edge Gallery, one of the city's most significant artist co-ops, is putting a twist on the typical members' show by including non-members as well. The idea for the wide-ranging group exhibit, Edge Pairings, was originally proposed by Rian Kerrane at a co-op member meeting, and her thought was to have each Edge-ster choose an artist who is important to him or her, and to show a single work by each, presented side by side.

Similar things have been done before. In 2003, Cydney Payton put together a biennial at the old MCA Denver that way, picking ten artists and then having them select the other ten. And this past summer, Ron Judish put together the last show in his gallery on Santa Fe Drive by asking all the artists in Gallery T's stable to invite one other artist.

But even if it's not a new idea, it's definitely an interesting one, and elegantly simple in execution. Edge Pairings further allows us to see pieces by every one of the co-op members and shows us that there are connections between them and some of the most formidable — or, at least, interesting — artists around town.

The show was installed by a band of members including Edge founder Ken Peterson, Sandy Lane and Jessica Ellis. Ever hear the one about too many cooks spoiling the broth? That's apparently what went wrong with the design of this show, which doesn't look good from the standpoint of its installation.

First, the pairings aren't as emphatic as they could be because of the haphazard hanging, and that makes the show less coherent than it could be and harder to follow. Each Edge member's piece should be displayed closer to the piece by the invited artist. I know there are those involved who will quibble with my complaint here and say, "But they are displayed together." However, I'd point out that in parts of the show, you'd need a tape measure to see the difference in space between the two related artists and the next two, which are hanging almost as close.

This tightness is no doubt an attempted solution to the problem of the limited space in the two show rooms at Edge. And this brings me to the second complaint: Because it is so crowded, the hanging doesn't convey any sense of there being an overriding point of view to the installation, an inclusion that could have led to a more beautiful show. There needs to be more diversity to the display on the south wall, for example, which just seems to go along like a fence built without the benefit of a carpenter's level. As for the pairs that are hung on the ends of the dividing wall, I actually missed them the first time I walked through, which can't be a good sign.

Here's my solution to both problems: Stack the many pairs of smallish pieces vertically, thus both opening up horizontal wall space and allowing for more obvious separations between the pairs. This would add visual interest to the hanging by mixing up-and-down pairs with side-by-side ones.

Oh, well, there's always next time.

The first pairing, Charlene Harlow's "Mile High Marker 14," and Homare Ikeda's "Nasubi," is one that reveals some aesthetic sympathy, as both artists create their compositions by arranging biomorphic shapes. Harlow is the Edge member and Ikeda the guest, and as I discuss the show below, I'll continue to name the paired artists in that order.

There are a number of other pairs that have notable affinities between them, including the clay brick vessel by Sara Behling and the two-part steel sculpture by Ira Sherman, both of which have figurative elements juxtaposed with the overriding abstraction of the entire forms. Then there are the little squares of altered old sheets by Heather Doyle-Maier hanging beside the three vaporous monotypes by Monica Jenardy. And nearby are a digital print by Susan Goldstein — Denver's least-known great artist — and a cyanotype with paint and embroidery by Caitlin Parker. Both look to be in the same post-pop-derived style.

On the opposite side of the room is Rian Kerrane's "Cake Decorations," a wall-mounted installation made up of a cast-bronze rendition of a toy train track laid in an oval and surrounded by ready-made plastic trees. When I looked closely at it, I really liked it, but more than any piece in the show, this one suffers from the bad exhibition design. It's been shoehorned in on the north wall, and it really needs its own short wall so that it can breathe a little. If it had its own space, it could have been more closely aligned with "Muffins," by the artist Kerrane invited, Hopi Benton. That piece is an installation made up of cast-iron muffins placed on paper doilies. The convincingly realistic muffins were done during an iron-pour performance in New Mexico.

There's no break in the display to differentiate the front space from the middle one, and this leads to another design issue. For example, I loved the way Linda Campbell's quilt worked with Bruce Price's work on paper, with the connection being the use of patterned cloth in both. By why hide them this way? On the side of the dividing wall is another pair that suffers from poor placement: the drawings by Sandy Lane and Julie Puma on related themes about childhood.

One pair that's in a great place — on the east wall — is the one dedicated to Mark Brasuell and Aidan Grey. The two paintings are the same size and have palettes and even compositional features that are similar. Brasuell told me they worked side by side on them. Directly across the room from the Brasuell/Grey combo is a more disparate pairing, with Susanne Alethea Mitchell's marvelous "Escape" on three vertically stacked unframed pieces of paper and an ink drawing by Sinae Lee. Mitchell's style combines surrealism with post-pop and a touch of feminist content (the images of paper doilies). Lee created an elegant, vaguely constructivist scene of figures in black outlines that are scattered across the page.

Despite its many shortcomings, Edge Pairings has a lot to recommend it, and I've only mentioned a handful of the 44 artists in the show. What I found wrong with it could easily have been fixed if a curator had volunteered to help out — and as it happens, I know one with some free time: William Biety. The curator and exhibition designer at van Straaten Gallery and for many years at its predecessor, the Sandy Carson Gallery, was laid off on January 15. I've long thought of Biety as one of the top exhibition designers and curators in town, and he seemingly always assembled a great group of works and placed them perfectly within the gallery. His voice will be sorely missed at van Straaten and in the Denver art world. Here's hoping that he'll wind up somewhere else.

Someone winding up somewhere else provides the perfect segue to another bit of local art news. David Dadone, formerly the deputy director at Denver's Museo de las Américas, will soon take over as chief executive at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. An immigrant from Argentina, Dadone has a background in business along with his experience at the Museo. He replaces co-directors Penny Barnow and Joan Markowitz, who stepped down this winter after five years. One thing I hope is that Dadone quickly realizes what a great asset BMoCA has in curator Kirsten Gerdes Stoltz.

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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

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