Many galleries go the route of the easy-to-do group show in the month of December, because it provides viewers with a wide variety of potential gift selections and because the holidays are overflowing with other kinds of seasonal events. Only during the dog days of August--a time when no one feels much like looking at art--are there this many art gallery copouts. And viewers can hardly be blamed if they have a ho-hum response to such events--after all, who wants to see more leftovers this close to Thanksgiving?

On the other hand, if you're Paul Hughes and you've been director of the prestigious Inkfish Gallery for twenty years, you can simply riffle through your cupboards and clean out your closets and storerooms and come up with a gourmet offering like the current Holiday Show--which, incidently, is so chock-full of treasures that it just about overflows the gallery, not just filling up the main exhibition space but also running up the stairs and right into Hughes's office in the loft.

The collection is so vast, in fact--stacks of prints and other works-on-paper are even displayed on the floor in places--that several individual mini-exhibits emerge from this single show. Even if Hughes had included only the three-dimensional pieces seen here, Holiday Show would qualify as one of the year's great sculpture exhibits. Sculptor Carl Reed is represented by so many first-rate pieces that his work alone could carry a solo show.

Reed, the Colorado Springs-based artist who this past fall was the subject of an exhibit at New York's famous O.K. Harris Gallery, is represented by more than half a dozen of his signature steel-and-wood or steel-and-stone compositions. Reed's concerns in a piece such as "Anchored Ring Series #15" are the same as they are in "Pegged Timber"; in each work, a vertical element (limestone in the former, oak in the latter) is paired with a rusted steel arc.

Another sculptor in the lineup is the late Harry Bertoia, who twenty years ago was the first artist in Hughes's Inkfish stable. Bertoia earned a national reputation for both sculpture and design before his death in 1978, and Hughes has chosen to show three small bronzes from the 1970s by this modern master, including one of Bertoia's renowned kinetic musical sculptures.

Joining Bertoia as a figure from Inkfish's past is Herbert Bayer, one of the most noted artists ever to live in Colorado. Two rare and untitled Bayer tabletop sculptures from 1975 are here, both in chrome-plated steel. The sculptures work as a pair, since both are made up of the same formal elements: a flat half-circle, a crescent and a sphere. Hughes, whose gallery enjoyed a decades-long association with Bayer, also has thrown in a number of Bayer paintings--look for a spectacular pair of untitled acrylics on paper from 1984.

Bayer's not the only revered Colorado artist represented--Vance Kirkland and Edward Marecak are here, too. Nor is Bertoia the only prominent out-of-towner--add Italo Scanga, Werner Drewes and Karl Schrag. And filling out the contemporary roster in addition to Reed are Tracy and Sushe Felix, Ania Gola-Kumor and Amy Metier. The show even features an entire jewelry exhibit by abstract artist Emilio Lobato.

Hughes says that when planning this show, he decided he wanted it to include "something for everybody"--an impossible dream he has somehow realized.

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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