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Review: The Enduring Appeal of the Figure on Display at Walker

Bobbi Walker, director of Walker Fine Art, has assembled pieces by a half-dozen artists to create the engaging group effort Figuratively Speaking, which features sculptures, photos, drawings and paintings, all of which depict the human figure in some way.

The gallery is enormous, and figurative sculptures by Gail Folwell have been installed throughout. Folwell is best known for her monumental work, but her pieces at Walker are more modestly scaled. “Téte â Téte,” her largest piece here, starts off the Walker show; it consists of two life-sized figures standing on the floor. (There’s an identical example from the same edition now on view at the Denver Art Museum.) Though the smaller Folwell pieces show a range of stylistic variations, including straightforward if conventionalized depictions, her signature is the quasi-cubist handling seen in “Téte â Téte.” 

While the Folwells fill the floor, the other five artists are all given their own section of the walls. 

In the front space bracketing the info desk are meticulous drawings in graphite powder, pencil and Conté by Tim Main, in which Polaroids play a key role. Main has inserted hand-drawn depictions of Polaroid photos — sometimes the backside, sometimes the image side — and then uses them as a compositional element in more complex drawings that also often include portraits. Main has an incredible ability to accurately render exterior reality and is apparently a thoroughly accomplished draftsman, as revealed by his drawings in this show.

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Opposite the Main drawings are digital photos by Michael McConnell. These black-and-white photos zero-in on female subjects who have been posed poetically and captured while in movement; the figures interact with flowing (or even blowing) gauzy robes or gowns. The results are very slick, a visual effect cranked up to the max by the integral and somewhat theatrical black-lacquer frames.

In the back-half of the gallery are photo-based pieces by Sally Stockhold and Zelda Zinn. Stockhold is represented by several of her staged photos, in which she creates elaborate sets and then, using makeup, costumes and hair pieces, poses as various figures that populate the imagery — in this case women from the history of photography and film. Zinn has taken photos of people on the streets of New York, then removed much of the background that surrounds them. This allows the figures as well as the outlines of the buildings to really stand out.

  Figuratively Speaking finishes off with a group of five Peter Illig paintings. Illig’s style refers to mid-twentieth century book-cover art and advertising, giving them a post-pop sensibility. Assembling various disparate images combined in the same piece, Illig’s work is allegorical, but the meanings are often obscure. These recent Illig paintings struck me as very different from his earlier work, yet thoroughly consistent with it.
You have two more days to see the show, which runs through May 14 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue #A; call 303-355-8955 or go to walkerfineart.com for more information.

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