Art Review

Jonas Burgert

When I went to the MCA/Denver (1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, last week to preview Damien Hirst, the place was a beehive of activity. In addition to the Hirst display going up in the Large Works Gallery, another exhibit was being installed around the corner, in the Promenade Space. Called Jonas Burgert, it's made up of a single painting, "Zweiter Tag Nichts/Second Day Nothing" (pictured), on loan from mega-collectors Vicki and Kent Logan.

Usually, one piece hardly makes up an exhibit, but this piece has the same square footage as a typical living room. First, a note about the Promenade Space: Of all the exhibiting rooms at the MCA, it's the most difficult to use because it's really just a wide place in the corridor. The huge mural by Burgert, which measures over twenty feet long and thirteen feet high, is just the right size to fill it to capacity, and it works a lot better than the dubious installations that have been shown in this room previously.

The Burgert painting has an undeniable Hieronymus Bosch-like quality, including figures lifted directly from the Flemish master's cast of characters. Burgert, like Bosch, conjures up a vision of hell, cramming "Zweiter Tag Nichts/Second Day Nothing" with suffering people. Another Bosch-ian aspect is the juxtaposition of different scales, with some figures rendered much larger than most of the others. Burgert's style of rendering the human form is traditional, but he pushes his work into the conceptual-realist camp by inserting an enigmatic narrative into it. In the picture, an army of men are collecting an acid-green liquid. "It's all about poison," says Burgert, who intends it as a metaphor for humanity's treatment of nature.

This painting, along with another at the Denver Art Museum, function as teasers for a solo at the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver, where Burgert is the artist in residence. "Zweiter Tag Nichts" will stay up at the MCA through March 1.

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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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