Art Review

Works on Paper by Bill Joseph

Bill Joseph, who died in 2003, is best remembered as a sculptor, and several of his pieces are prominently sited downtown. These include the Christopher Columbus monument in Civic Center Park, the bronze eagle on the United States Courthouse on Stout Street, and the Beaumont Fountain, west of Broadway on 19th Street.

But Joseph was also adept at making more intimately scaled pieces in the form of drawings, as revealed in Works on Paper by Bill Joseph at the O'Sullivan Art Gallery on the Regis University campus (3333 Regis Boulevard, 303-964-3634, The show includes more than a score of drawings surveying the artist's career from the 1940s to the 1980s, and a few maquettes for sculpture thrown in for good measure.

Joseph, born in 1926, began his career in the 1940s as a traditional realist, and there are some beautiful portraits in pencil dating from this time in the show. In the late '50s and early '60s, however, he began to embrace figural abstraction, as in a lyrical acrylic portrait of a woman (pictured). This sort of approach, with its obvious relationship to modern-master European sources such as Modigliani and Picasso, occupied the artist for most of the rest of his career. In his later years, in the 1990s, he turned away from abstraction and back to a more representational mode — though none of the drawings in this show are illustrative of this final aesthetic phase.

This elegant exhibit was organized by Regis's Robert St. John, who chose pieces from the artist's estate. Joseph only rarely dated drawings, and once he embraced figural abstraction, his style remained fairly consistent over many decades. This is no doubt why the selections have not been hung chronologically — St. John didn't have a record to rely on to do it — but it's still a shame that neither he nor the Joseph family, which loaned the works for the show, were willing to take a stab at laying them out in order so viewers could attempt to follow Joseph's actual development as an artist.

Works on Paper by Bill Joseph runs through December 7.

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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