Round Up

Having people from both inside and outside the art world come to me and plug a show is a standard feature of my life as an art critic. What's funny about it, though, is how many of them think they're doing me a favor.

You see, in their fantasies about the local art world, I must need to scramble to find enough stuff to talk about every week. And they've got just the ticket to help out: a friend with a show in a hospital waiting room or an omelet parlor. They're sure -- and they've already assured their friend -- that I'll jump at the chance to see it and write about it.

Of course, they couldn't be more wrong about my topical options. Right now there are more than a hundred shows around the metro area, so I doubt I'll ever get to those being presented in hospital waiting rooms or omelet parlors. With a once-a-week gig like this, there's too much going on to keep up with. Reviewed below are seven shows in four central Denver galleries that represent just the tip of the city's art-scene iceberg.

Sandy Carson Gallery, clearly the most important spot on Santa Fe Drive, is presenting two notable solos, Gwen Laine and Lorelei Schott, that were installed as a duet. Laine is an experimental photographer, Schott an abstract painter.

Laine, who lives in Denver, has photographed the sights around her house, with a favorite subject being the contrast between light and shadow. She takes photos using a 35mm camera, then rewinds the film and takes another series of photos on the roll, then repeats the process again, resulting in triple exposures. Since she takes the shots randomly, she has no way of knowing how the photos will come out until they're printed into contact sheets. She digitally prints the ones she's happy with onto rag paper, using carbon inks in a process she has dubbed "carbon printing." The photos are then fixed to sheets of metal and sealed so there's no need for glass, the glare from which is the bane of all photographers.

A definite up-and-comer on the local photo scene, Laine is going to be included in the June issue of Black & White magazine, where she's been chosen as one of the fifteen hottest young photographers in the country.

Schott's paintings are quiet abstractions about the natural world, but her process is unique. She buries her canvas underground so that the forces of weather stain the raw material, which becomes the basis for the paintings. By using pieces of metal and other elements, she controls the stained shapes to create her compositions. Later, she digs up the canvas and then clarifies and highlights the stains with paint. The best of her works on display at Sandy Carson is "Untitled, Part I and II," a heroic diptych.

Gwen Laine and Lorelei Schott work well together at Sandy Carson, though I couldn't help but wish they'd been installed separately so that each could have defined its own dedicated space.

Just a door north of the swank Sandy Carson, in the storefront where the Assembly used to reside, is the handsome if humble Kanon Collective. The current show there is PARALLEL LINES, with photo-based abstracts by David Menard paired with small poured paintings by Kym Bloom. Menard and Bloom are two-thirds of the Kanon Collective, with the last member being Carlos Michael Finn. Since Finn maintains his painting studio in the back, a selection of his work makes for an additional, ad hoc exhibit.

The Menards are photo transfers floating between layers of acrylic glazes. Menard has used images of various things, from twigs to wires, and made them ambiguous in different ways, including the manipulation of lighting and shadow. As a result, these earth-toned pieces really look more like paintings than photos.

Bloom's paintings are different from the Menards in any number of ways, but particularly in the bold colors she employs. Bloom allows the acrylic paints to run and flow, as in "Nautilus," which shows evidence of being spun when the paint was wet. On other panels, she apparently tipped the paintings, allowing the paint to move before it set. These Blooms are closely related to Ryan Anderson's paintings, which have been seen frequently at Space Gallery across the street, but they're also different enough to avoid the accusation of copying.

PARALLEL LINES has a lot to recommend it, but it's way too crowded. This is a frequent pitfall that young enthusiasts such as Menard, Bloom and Finn stumble over, and I guess that's what makes it forgivable.

Right now, three interesting solos fill the William Havu Gallery. In the main space on the first floor is Michael Brangoccio, with Margaretta Gilboy installed in the intimate area in the back. Up on the mezzanine is Stan Meyer.

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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