Review: Handsome Collin Parson Solo at Michael Warren Contemporary Closes Saturday

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Collin Parson is best known as the exhibition manager and chief curator for the galleries at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, but he’s built a parallel career as a visual artist over the past several years with his distinctive wall panels. Parson's latest efforts are now on display at Michael Warren Contemporary, in the handsome show Aurum: New works by Collin Parson, which closes this weekend.

First up is a trio of backlit geometric shapes from the artist's "Divided" series, made of precision-cut laminated wood in the shapes of a circle, a square and an ellipse. The shapes are set out slightly from the wall, and following their contours — but hidden behind them — are strings of colored LEDs. When the lights are turned on, illuminated halos are projected against the walls, around and within the cut-out shapes.

These are scaled-down versions of similar pieces that Parson showed a couple of years ago at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center. Unfortunately, here they’re displayed in the wrong place: opposite the expansive windows that face the street. When I saw the show a few days ago, the sun was streaming in the windows, which made the light from the LEDs pretty much disappear. I might not have known the lights were there at all if clouds hadn’t rolled in; in the suddenly darkened space, the LEDs popped, and intense colored light washed the walls surrounding the three pieces. Maybe these should have been installed in the back gallery, where the space could be darkened; instead, that area is occupied by a small group show of gallery artists.
The large “Divided” pieces mark a departure from Parson's recent interest in using mirrored acrylic sheets pierced in laser-cut geometric patterns. In some cases, these sheets are displayed set out from the wall, like the “Divided” pieces; in others, they are used as elements in light boxes. The mirrored works inspired the show’s title, Aurum, which is the Latin word for "gold"; gold-toned mirrored acrylic is the chief material, supplemented by black-toned mirror. The idea and the process are both disarmingly simple: Parson begins with digitally determined patterns typically made up of straight lines that are then used to guide laser cutters that pierce the mirrored acrylic sheets. The pieces set out from the wall are the simplest expression and resemble decorative screens, while the light boxes employ the pierced sheets as the uppermost panel, with a lighted field visible through the voids in the patterns.

Despite the less-is-more character of these mostly untitled pieces, the reflective surfaces add an unexpected more-is-more quality. As you look at the panels — and, to a lesser extent, the light boxes — you immediately notice the overall composition of the cut patterns, which are minimalist and have a kind of graphic punch that catches the eye. Then you begin to notice a more subtle aspect of the Parson pieces: the mirrored surfaces reflect back all the visual information in the room. This reflective aspect adds a soft touch to the otherwise hard-edged panels and boxes.Aurum closes on June 4; fortunately, the gallery will offer a few bonus hours on First Friday, when it will stay open until 9 p.m. Michael Warren Contemporary is located at 760 Santa Fe Drive. For more information, call 303-667-2447 or go to michaelwarrencontemporary.com.

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