Review: Michael Brohman and Walter Barton at Pirate

Denver artist Michael Brohman is juggling dualities in his solo at Pirate, In a World of Circles and Squares, which closes this Sunday. Not only does each piece express some kind of double meaning, but the show itself comprises two distinct bodies of work. It’s almost as though Brohman is presenting a pair of contrasting solos as opposed to a single seamless display.

The first type of Brohman sculptures involves found antique objects, in particular a pair of columns. In “Cutting Through History,” the column has been partly chopped down with an ax, with the consequent wooden chips lying on the floor. For Brohman, the column represents both the value of the Western tradition and its inherent repressive qualities, with the ax cuts signifying the struggle of the oppressed against authority.

The second column sculpture, “Support Systems,” reconciles another conflict: biology versus society. To express this, Brohman has cut out a rectangular void in the column’s shaft and inserted a human spinal column into the space. A third piece, “The History Between Us,” is made from the capitals of the columns; Brohman has mounted them on the wall, separated by an assemblage of more than 1,000 old buttons.

The other types of pieces here reflect an interest that Brohman has explored for over twenty years. “Line” and “Waiting” were inspired by photos taken during the Holocaust of prisoners looking through barbed-wire fences. Brohman has lined up small, separately cast Giacometti-esque figures shoulder to shoulder and facing the viewer, representing the idea of “us versus them.”
Brohman has been a Pirate member since 2000 and has shown in the main space since then, but he says he’s leaving Pirate and that this will be his last show there. “There are so many associates waiting to become members,” notes Brohman. “I just thought, it’s time for me to move aside.”

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Associates are consigned to the odd cramped spaces in the back. Right now, that’s where Walter Barton is presenting Things I Have Known, sculptures created from found objects. In “Time Pieces,” for example, Barton has taken parts of old pieces of furniture — including a gate-leg table, drawers set on end and an ornamental molding — and has also included a face mask and a blank clock dial, making the whole thing look like a wrecked grandfather clock.

The Brohman and Barton solos run through Sunday, August 28 at Pirate: Contemporary Art, 3655 Navajo Street. The gallery is open from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 303-458-6058 or go to pirateartonline.org for more info.

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