Art Review

See the late Edward Marecak's works at Z Art Department

In the '90s, people started getting interested in historic Colorado modernism, and I've always thought it had something to do with the retrospective mood created by the coming turn of the millennium. Edward Marecak, who died in 1993, became one of the first local modernists to have his reputation resurrected as part of this rediscovery, in part because of the multiple posthumous salutes that took place around that time.

Z Art Department (1136 Speer Boulevard, 303-298-8432) has mounted an exhibit dedicated to him, titled The Magical World of Edward Marecak. The wildly colored and strangely composed paintings that make up the show are visually dazzling, and Marecak himself is historically interesting.

A gifted artist even as a child, he earned a scholarship to the Cleveland Institute in 1938 and later attended the Cranbrook Academy of Art, in Michigan. He eventually wound up at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center School in 1945. Marecak had come to Colorado to study with Boardman Robinson, but never got the chance. Instead, he connected with the modernist scene here and became especially close to Edgar Britton. Like Britton, Marecak decamped from the Springs in the early '50s and moved to Denver.

The show includes some remarkable pieces from this early period that reveal his debt to Picasso's later work. "Mystic Lady" (pictured), with its dark structural lines and sideways face, is very abstract-surrealist. Also referencing European modernism is the breathtaking "Wise Venus," from 1958. It depicts a seated nude woman surrounded by an assortment of patterned shapes.

The artist's later work is dominated by references to the folk art and folk tales of his family's ancestral home in Slovakia, which Marecak conveys through colliding fields of grids that define the recognizable forms. And the strong tones of his palettes also seem to recall Eastern European culture.

The Magical World of Edward Marecak runs through January 8 at Z Art Department.

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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