Artist and arts advocate Tracy Weil and fellow artist Jill Hadley Hooper founded the wildly successful River North Art District in 2007. And Weil's Weilworks, a postmodern farmhouse complete with a small farm, is right across Chestnut Place from Ironton Studios & Gallery, the post-industrial complex where Hooper is the exhibition director.
So it makes sense that Hooper selected Weil to be the subject of Ironton's fall solo. Los Esqueletos: New Work by Tracy Weil is filled with depictions of skeletons and skulls done in a pointedly naive way. Despite the ghastliness of the subjects, Weil's specialty is creating work that's fun, so the mood of the show is anything but gloomy. The colors are toned up, the style is lyrical, and the compositions are crowded with intriguing elements.
Weil has been working since the '80s, and the sensibility of these paintings — with their wild brushwork, jarring colors and crude renderings — is an outgrowth of that era. It's not surprising to learn that the artist admires Jean-Michel Basquiat, the late neo-expressionist genius, or that he considers Denver's own Susan Wick to be his most important mentor.
These dozen Weil paintings were inspired by a Latin American children's song in which the lyrics are used to teach kids to tell time by counting skeletons. Weil takes the lines from the song to guide his compositions, as in "When the clock strikes eight, eight skeletons eat cake" (pictured), in which a pattern of skulls and cake slices has been instinctively arranged on the panel. Though technically each painting illustrates a particular line of the song with the corresponding number of skeletons, Weil's exuberance leads him to use more in places. In "When the clock strikes two, two skeletons eat rice," for example, the two skeletons above the bowl refer to those mentioned in the title, but the many others in the painting are used as elements in a decorative motif.
The show runs through November 30 at Ironton Studios & Gallery, 3636 Chestnut Place; call 303-297-8626 or go to irontonstudios.com.