Art Review

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin honors the opening of the Clyfford Still Museum

Simon Zalkind, curator of the Mizel Center's Singer Gallery (350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360,, has mounted a show, as so many others have, honoring the opening of the Clyfford Still Museum. His entry, which runs through April 29, is the wonderful Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin, made up of paintings by Andy Berg. The title is taken from the Bible and translates to "the writing on the wall."

Berg was trained in the '80s, but took a couple of decades off before picking up the brush again. His style refers to classic abstract expressionism, but he also makes lots of references to the abstract end of neo-expressionism, which is where he started so many years ago. It has to do with what was then called "mark making," and Berg's embrace of the method is one reason that Jean-Michel Basquiat will come to mind as you walk through the show.

There are many standouts in this gorgeous exhibit, especially the title piece, "Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin," a magnificent triptych covered with a range of abstract passages and incorporating enigmatic script and scribbles. Also stunning is "Synchronistic" (detail pictured). Both paintings, and many of the rest, reveal Berg's sophisticated understanding of modernism, with tips of the brush to Matisse, Hans Hofmann and even Arshile Gorky.

For nearly fifteen years, Zalkind has set a high aesthetic standard with exhibitions like this Berg solo, a standard that has apparently not been met by the Mizel's performing-arts division. This was brought home by the newly unveiled and truly hideous remodel of the building's principal south-facing elevation in order to create a pointless entrance as part of the tacky and pretentious redo of the Elaine Wolf Theatre.

The clumsy expressionism of the new remodel collides with the restrained brutalism of what's left of the once-handsome original. Formerly, this side of the building featured two horizontal masses symmetrically flanking a vertical atrium topped by a barrel vault. Now this formal order is wrecked, with the off-balance addition not being just asymmetric, but anti-symmetric!

As soon as I left the parking lot, I knew what I had to do — go to Walgreens and get some Visine.

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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