Art Review

Two compelling solos share space at Spark

There's a pair of compelling solos at Spark Gallery (900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200, that brings together two well-established Denver artists. And although their works are as different as night is from day, the exhibits go together well.

On the west side of the gallery is Andy Libertone: Old Walls, New Floors, which combines the artist's bas-reliefs from the '70s with his recent freestanding sculptures — hence the old walls and new floors of the title. Libertone has been part of the Colorado art world for decades and was one of the founders of Spark in 1979.

Though I've long been aware of his work, most of these early pieces were a revelation, especially because they unexpectedly link him to the long-gone but still well-regarded Criss-Cross group from Boulder, where he lived at the time. The Criss-Cross artists were interested in geometric abstraction, and apparently Libertone was, as well. The new floor sculptures are closely related to the earlier pieces and, like them, feature bright colors and hard-edged forms; but they're simultaneously different, principally by not being symmetrical.

The other solo, Embroidery by Rob Watt, is installed in the intimate space on the east side of Spark and features small-scale textiles with representational imagery. Needlework is an unusual medium for a contemporary artist, but Watt has been at it for a very long time. His skill at capturing the details in his work, which includes depictions of the scenery, his beloved cat Ricky, and even the Sphinx (pictured), is remarkable. It's easy to believe, as Watt told me, that each one required some forty to fifty hours of work to complete because the stitches are so small and the scenes themselves are so crowded with details. Given this, the prices Watt is asking for them are ridiculously low.

Both artists will be in the gallery for "Coffee With the Artists" on February 26, from noon to 5 p.m. The show closes the following day.

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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