Art Review

Review: Four Solos at Havu Use Nature as a Springboard

Yoshitomo Saito sculpture in foreground; paintings by Zachariah Rieke (left), Jim Waid (right).
Yoshitomo Saito sculpture in foreground; paintings by Zachariah Rieke (left), Jim Waid (right). William Havu Gallery
Gallery director William Havu and gallery administrator Nick Ryan have orchestrated a sensitive interweaving of four tight solos for the premiere exhibit of 2018 at the William Havu Gallery. Although each of the individual presentations has its own space, they overlap or bleed into one another at the edges...and it somehow works.

In the two main spaces that run across the front of the gallery is Jim Waid: Cross Pollinations, exuberant and mostly largish expressionist abstract paintings that incorporate both vague and direct references to plants. Waid, who lives in Arizona, likes to use wide brushstrokes to produce a dizzying array of pictorial elements that stand out against one another because of their strong colors. The forms he uses sometimes evoke flowers, butterflies and tree trunks that are often held in an awkward tension with one another; these forms occupy illusionary space constructed of abstract layers that recede away from the surface. They are very engaging.

Also on view in these spaces, and throughout the gallery, are bronze sculptures by highly regarded Colorado artist Yoshitomo Saito, a conceptualist whose work looks abstract but is actually hyperrealist, since his elements are typically based on precise casts of things found in nature, such as twigs and pine cones. “Forest Cradle,” for instance, which looks like a cross between a nest and a bowl, has been cast and welded in such a way that it seems woven. For the “Tom & Jerry” pieces, though, Saito uses bronze rods, not cast parts, as the predominant elements. The Saito sculptures at Havu offer a taste of what's on display in the artist's solo that opens this weekend at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

In the spaces around and across from the staircase is Zachariah Rieke: Shape Shifter, which comprises what are still known as color-field abstractions even though they are black and white. Rieke, who's from New Mexico, tips his hat to nature in an entirely different way. Rather than referencing it, as Waid does, or appropriating its forms, like Saito, Rieke embraces nature through the laws of fluid dynamics. His multi-panel installation “Elegy to Modernism” is a tour de force: The title refers to Motherwell’s “Elegy to the Spanish Republic” series, his signature achievement, but it looks more like a Franz Kline, and it has been done like a Pollock. What an economical way to metatext abstract expressionism!

The last of the four solos, Bob Smith, is on the mezzanine. With a career that stretches back fifty years, Smith is a legend in Colorado ceramics. These recent pieces are classic vessels, some with rich monochrome glazes, others with spare, feathery decorations. Smith is best known for his raku, with its characteristic ashy quality, but these pieces are very different. Though still low-fire, they look like they’re made of porcelain.

These four shows, which effectively collapse into a single experience, run through March 3 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street. Call 303-893-2360 or go to for more information.

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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