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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...
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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.

But the West galleries include some small, intimate paintings, too. New York artist Kiki Smith's 1995 "Untitled (Crow)," a gouache on paper, depicts a black crow hanging upside down; it appears to pay homage to the modernist bird paintings of the late Morris Graves. A 1968 oil and charcoal on paper by the late Willem de Kooning displays an abstraction of a woman, his subject and icon. Particularly effective are the slashes suggestive of high heels at the bottom of the piece, the only vaguely representational features of this otherwise abstract painting.

Recent examples of neo-minimalism also turn up in the West galleries. Particularly striking are a pair of large oil-on-canvas paintings from California artist Suzanne Caporael's "Chrome Yellow" series, which refers to an enigmatic if suggestive Dylan Thomas quote, "If I were tricked by the rub of love." In "268 (Chrome Yellow O, Cr, Pd) Dylan Thomas..." and in the closely associated "267 (Chrome Yellow) Dylan Thomas...," Caporael lays thick and heavy coats of paint in hard-edged rectangular shapes on fields of raw canvas for extremely elegant results. German artist Imi Knoebel is represented by "Victoria," a tiny, exquisite oil on wood panel done in 1992. At the center of the painting is a dark, vertical rectangle, framed by colored bars in red, pink, orange and white. Knoebel makes no effort to conceal the individual brush strokes that form the monochrome rectangle and bars; in this way, he breaks from his predecessors in the original minimalist movement of the Sixties.

L.A. artist Matt Jackson takes an unexpected tack for a neo-minimalist, dispensing with straight lines altogether in an untitled oil-on-board painting begun in 1997 and completed in 1998. Instead of using lines, Jackson arranges hard-edged polka dots in a grid on a taxi-yellow ground. Like Knoebel, he applies his paint expressively rather than flatly--an unexpected twist, given the simplicity of his piece.

While the West galleries include homage to Chuck Close, in the East galleries there's a piece by the master himself. Close's silkscreen "Self Portrait" from 1995 showcases the way in which the artist attains nearly photo-realist effects through the use of a limited vocabulary of marks connected by a unifying grid--a remarkable feat made even more remarkable because Close is a paraplegic. Regardless of the medium in which he works, Close's pieces always have a photographic quality. But Sans Titre also includes works by artists who use photography to achieve effects associated with other art mediums, notably painting. One such photo is the cibachrome "Black Jesus," by the legendary Andres Serrano. In this large-format photograph, Serrano shoots a black plastic statue of Jesus through the filter of a clear liquid that blurs the details. ("Black Jesus" comes from Serrano's controversial "Immersion" series that includes the infamous though beautiful "Piss Christ.")

Another New York photographer, Tom Baril, gets pictorial with his lens in a quartet of large gelatin silver prints. With these dark and dreamy photos, Baril finds the gothic in Gotham landmarks. The pictures are meticulously printed, which is not surprising, since Baril often printed for the late Robert Mapplethorpe, one of the greatest photographers of the last twenty years. Although Sans Titre includes only one small Mapplethorpe, a less desirable photogravure, Scott and Teplitzky have collected his work in depth. "We essentially left Mapplethorpe out of this show with the hopes of displaying our collection of his work in a separate exhibit in the future," Teplitzky explains.

The East galleries also contain some fine examples of neo-expressionism, including an untitled quartet by the enfant terrible of the movement, the late and much lamented Jean-Michel Basquiat. These four pieces, all dating from 1982-1983 and done in acrylic paint and oilstick on plastic panels, join skulls with scribbled passages of text--typical Basquiat fare--arranged unerringly with little apparent effort from the artist. Always well-received critically, Basquiat has attained phenomenal postmortem success: His 1980s self-portrait recently sold for more than $3 million at auction in New York. His pieces in "Sans Titre" aren't in that league, but they still reveal what makes Basquiat's vision so enduring: His heroic modernist approach is all the clearer now that postmodernist detours have come and gone.

The twists and turns of Sans Titre reveal that Scott and Teplitzky have created their collection without following any hard and fast rules, and the idiosyncratic collection is the better for it. "We like everything," Teplitzky says.

Judging from this impressive show, that's everything worth liking.

Sans Titre: Works From the Collection of Peggy Scott and David Teplitzky, through March 14 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 303-443-2122.

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