Conceptual artist Tobias Fike, who's been showing his creations around Denver for the past few years, is the subject of an elegant solo at David B. Smith Gallery titled Then and now and then. Fike is perhaps best known for his performances done with Matthew Harris, which are documented in photos or videos. Although there are some of these at Smith, the show is mostly made up of Fike's individual efforts.
One of the first pieces, right inside the front door, is "My Own Night," a sculpture that comprises a skeletal rectangle surmounted by a cube covered in sheets of black-painted medium-density fiberboard. Hidden inside are lights that are only visible through pinpricks in the MDF sheets. The pattern of the tiny holes has been determined by the position of the constellations visible in the night sky over Fike's native Nebraska on the day that he was born.
"My Own Night," along with two photo enlargements based on it, anticipates the site-specific installation "Accumulation, A Mountain of Stars," which is the climax of the show. Using ready-made cardboard boxes, Fike has created an ad hoc ziggurat in the back corner of the main exhibition space. The neatly stacked boxes are internally lit, like the box at the top of "My Own Night" — with the light shining through tiny holes in the cardboard. The patterns of the holes record the position of stars that are 38 light-years away — or all of Fike's lifetime.
These pieces function on two levels. On one hand, they have elegant constructivist forms, with the twinkling lights kicking up the visual quotient of each. On the other, they're about time, space and Fike's life. This reconciling of the individual to the universe is one of the main themes of Then and now and then.
Conceptually, particularly in terms of the autobiographical basis of the pieces, this work has a lot in common with what Adam Milner has been doing. But from a visual standpoint, it's more akin to Joel Swanson's efforts, because like him, Fike is interested in a meta-modernist aesthetic of clean and chaste forms used to convey underlying narratives.
There's a lot more to recommend this show. There are witty videos, like "Moon Pong 2," in which Fike moves his camera so that the moon appears to be bouncing around the screen. There are some interesting photos, including the "Night Tracing" group, in which two figures are handling fluorescent lights. Fike used long exposure times to capture the images, so that the moving lights resemble scribbles. And there are two small installations involving twigs that, when light is projected at them, look like full-grown trees.
Then and now and then closes this Saturday, May 31, at David B. Smith, 1543A Wazee Street. For additional information, call 893-4234 or go to davidbsmithgallery.com.