Denver artist Louis Recchia's raucous, jam-packed style has changed only slightly since he burst onto the Denver art scene in the early Eighties. And in Recchia's case, that's a positive: His trademark mirror-filled backgrounds, found-object tableaux and flat cartoony representations of lovers, dogs, ballerinas and everything else under the sun are as rich a source of imagery and meaning as ever.

But the years have also provided the painter with a deeper comprehension of his medium's potential. This understanding works to good effect in a new collection of Recchia's paintings, painted screens and found-object collages showing at Rule Modern and Contemporary, a gallery that left its Wazee Street storefront a few years back for the posh marble halls of the Design Center at the Icehouse. The prolific artist's popular works look as unabashedly gaudy here as they do at his yearly extravaganza at Pirate, where Recchia was one of the co-op's first members. But Rule's elegant mainstream space gives viewers an opportunity to consider his work in a more serious light. (Not, of course, that Recchia isn't already taken seriously as an artist--his work has been collected by the Denver Art Museum, and he exhibits nationwide.)

Recchia's dimensional wall pieces have always been crowded, stuffed from edge to edge with images both random and purposeful portrayed in an appealing, childlike rendering style that recalls comic books, teenage doodling and folk-art motifs. Now that maelstrom of pictorial elements has a softer edge, showing greater depth and perspective. And while Recchia's visual stories continue to intrigue, their strong foundations in world culture and human psychology are more apparent; the sources are more literal (witness his appropriation of the Bottom character from A Midsummer Night's Dream) and, at times, more mysterious, as evidenced by his "shadow people," black figural silhouettes that appear as important characters in these highly narrative works.

"The Untold Story" offers a lovely example of Recchia's progress in these directions. The artist's revived interest in pointillism is at its peak here, in an oil-on-canvas painting that looks a little like the cyclone in The Wizard of Oz. A storm of fanciful objects and confetti-like dots both attack and form the surfaces of a country house, a bare tree and a genteel man and woman. Windblown lilies, a carousel horse and all sorts of oddball creatures (one has a cup of coffee for a body, one a TV torso) fly across the canvas like embodied figments of the imagination, creating a whimsical panorama. A more thoughtful study of the painting, however, reveals it to be full of curious menace: Details such as a blast of flame erupting out of the house's chimney, a sad couple balanced on the back of the horse and a talking cat emerge only gradually.

Other paintings are just as complex. "The Artist's Studio" features a floating pipe, an attractive model and the artist himself, levitated upside down in front of the easel. Recchia's two painted screens offer double triptychs, each generously sized panel painted front and back with teeming imagery--animal forms intertwined with exploding buildings, falling figures colliding with heaps of flowers. And "I'm Not Lyin'," with its roaring aluminum lion framed by a dizzying selection of wonderful junk, returns Recchia to his found-object roots.

But in Recchia's capable hands, what's old is new again. This show is so impressive it warms even the fortresslike Icehouse.

Louis Recchia, through January 31, 1995, at Rule Modern and Contemporary, the Design Center at the Icehouse, second floor (sign in at front desk), 1801 Wynkoop Street, 298-1310.