Art Review

Review: Conceptual Takes on Nature Fill the Robischon Gallery

The exhibit Testing Grounds, which runs through this weekend only at Robischon Gallery, brings together artists who look to nature, especially the Western landscape, as sources for their disparate approaches. As usual at Robischon, there's enough room to allow the artists to essentially be given solos, so that the work of each one is seen in depth.

An exception is Kim Dickey, who is represented by a single work, "Inverted I-Beam (hedge)," and who is a late addition to the show's roster. Her piece was included to celebrate the fact that she has a sculpture in the upcoming State of the Art, a widely anticipated survey of contemporary American art opening this fall at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. That's quite an accomplishment for a Colorado artist.

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The Dickey is surrounded by the work of Tyler Beard, who likes to play off the Western-landscape tradition in various ways. "Leaning Dune" is simple, elegant and super-smart; Beard has turned a photographic enlargement of the landscape on its side and propped it up with an armature of unfinished wood. It's a marvelous extension of his tweaked landscape photos, which line the walls.

Beyond are smaller displays dedicated to John McEnroe, Oliver Herring and David Zimmer. McEnroe's red stump filled with yellow resin is great. And there is a real resonance between Herring's paper bird sculptures and Zimmer's bird videos. In the adjacent space are photos and videos by William Lamson; in the back is a presentation in which his "A Line Describing the Sun" video is projected on the wall in a continuous loop. In the video, Lamson rides a contraption with lenses that use the sun to scorch a line into the cracked earth.

Mary Ehrin, who is best known for her feather paintings -- like the one at the Denver Art Museum -- is represented here by her upholstered rocks. In these pieces, as with the feather paintings, Ehrin mashes fashion with nature. The natural shapes of the rocks have been juxtaposed with their very unnatural surface treatments; some are covered in metallic bangles, others in stitched patent leather.

The Ehrins are bracketed by photos. On one side are a trio of images from Erika Osborne's "Imprinting Place" series, in which the artist has done drawings on the bare backs of young guys who stand in front of the scenes being depicted. Truly impressive from a technical standpoint are Jim Sanborn's long-exposure photos of rock formations, on which geometric abstracts of light have been projected.

Testing Grounds closes September 6 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street. Call 303-298-7788 or go to

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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