Private Passions

The private passions of two collectors have gone very public in Boulder. Sans Titre: Works From the Collection of Peggy Scott and David Teplitzky, which opened in mid-January at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, has been attracting huge crowds--and not just the partyers who broke all BMoCA attendance records at a gala opening reception two Fridays ago. The following night, a large private party honored the many artists whose work is on display and who came from across the country to see the show.

It's worth the trip.
The couple behind Sans Titre, Peggy Scott and husband David Teplitzky, settled in the area just two years ago, moving into a rambling 1970s house in Evergreen with their two small children, Jordi and Noah, and an already impressive art collection. In 1997 they opened the Round World gallery in downtown Denver. Round World, which closed late last year, never really caught on with Denver's art crowd, but it did make a splash with shows that included vanguard contemporary art by famous artists. In fact, many of the pieces included in Sans Titre were first displayed--if only to a handful of viewers--on the gallery's walls.

It's easy to see why Scott and Teplitzky call the show that highlights their artistic hoard Sans Titre (French for "untitled"): Their wildly inclusive collection isn't easily labeled, since their taste ranges from tribal art to conceptualism. "I wanted the show to be about the process Peg and I went about collecting," says Teplitzky. "For me, the show marks the passage of time. When we started fifteen years ago, we were interested in folk art and tribal art, and we only later became interested in contemporary art."

But if Scott and Teplitzky came to contemporary art belatedly, they took to it with a rare passion. Contemporary art, especially from the Eighties and Nineties, is the real strength of their collection and so the centerpiece of this show.

Teplitzky selected the pieces for Sans Titre, enough to fill the ground-floor galleries to a pleasing density and also spill over into the entry lobby and information area. But he wasn't involved in the hanging; Scott, Cinda Sparling and BMoCA director Cydney Payton came up with the free-form style, which makes contrasts rather than comparisons. Given the various movements and disparate artists included, this trio made an appropriate choice.

Sans Titre starts almost the moment you enter BMoCA: Hanging high on the wall above the reception desk is "Totem," a signature Keith Haring multiple. The whimsical 1988 piece, done just a year before the artist died from AIDS, is on brightly painted carved plywood; the palette is typical Haring, dominated by the primaries of red, blue and yellow. Also characteristic of Haring are the simplified figures that cover the coffin-shaped "Totem" and have become the artist's best-recognized images.

To the left in the lobby, Scott, Sparling and Payton have double-stacked smaller pieces. Some of the juxtapositions are startling and difficult, but the pieces themselves are powerful enough to combat the stiff visual competition. Most of the Sans Titre pop-art pieces are in this display, including a handful by the movement's most renowned proponents. Jim Dine, a former New Yorker living in Vermont, is represented by a gorgeous 1962 lithograph, "Four C Clamps." At the top of the ecru-colored handmade paper, he has printed a bar of dark-green ink that drips in places; using a resist that reveals the paper, the C-clamps of the title interrupt the green ink. One of Andy Warhol's "Flowers" prints from 1964, an offset edition, hangs nearby. There's also an offset lithograph by the late Roy Lichtenstein, "Shipboard Girl," which displays the artist's famous cartoon-strip style. The blond woman seen in a closeup wears a sensual smile. "Look at her face," Teplitzky says. "She's in ecstasy."

In the lobby is one of the show's few sculptures, the conceptual "Vertical Eye Tower," created in 1996 by TODT, a New Mexico collaborative group. The aluminum stile is faced with a stack of transparencies of human eyes, which are illuminated by a lighted tube running down one side. This sculpture is a multiple produced by Scott and Teplitzky, who are art publishers as well as collectors and dealers.

They're patrons, too, and several Sans Titre pieces were commissioned by the couple, including one of the best things in the show, the remarkable "One to One." This 1998 mixed-media piece by Los Angeles-based artist Rachel Lachowicz faces the entrance and commands BMoCA's large West galleries. At first glance, "One to One" looks like one of those famous Chuck Close self-portraits. But on closer inspection, it's actually a copy of a Close painting carried out in compressed eye-shadow squares that have been wired together with aluminum. Lachowicz is known for her use of makeup as an art mate-rial, which injects feminist content into her work; here, by cleverly arranging the eye shadow into a grid, she also echoes the grids contained in Close's paintings. Around the corner from the Lachowicz are unique Polaroids by New York photographer Lyle Ashton Harris that also focus on Close. One set of mammoth black-and-white photos juxtaposes a straight-on head shot with a shot of the back of the same head; Harris places these portraits of Close together with a pair of self-portraits in the same format and technique.

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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