Depending on your point of view, “The New Underground” at the Spark Gallery is either a family reunion or a memorial service for the galleries and studio spaces that have been pushed out of the urban core by Denver’s recent, and frequently lamented, gentrification. Any artist who has suffered displacement because of rising real estate prices was invited to contribute work.
The list of places now gone may not be terribly long, but it is undoubtedly significant, and includes several artist co-ops that anchored the visual arts scene here for decades. Edge, Pirate, Ice Cube, Next and other galleries weren’t just showrooms, they were also community centers where hundreds of hard-working artists found their spiritual kin and the sort of candid camaraderie that kept their passions moving forward, and where new talent was nurtured and guided into a tough business.
“The New Underground” is meant to bring these refugees into solidarity and to remind all those Denverites cashing in on their suddenly valuable homes that something was lost in the great economic transition of the 2010s.
It all sounds so sad, and it should. Truly talented people were sent scrambling. Not just good painters, printmakers, sculptors and photographers, but also key figures in the scene, the folks who stick with it and keep the art conversation going at openings and on social media forums.
And yet, “The New Underground” turns out to be a feel-good commemoration in its way. It’s nice to see all of these likable artists from various collectives collected together, a reminder that Denver’s talent bench is deep and its art community isn’t really going away, just moving around. The work on the walls is skilled, spirited and affordable.
It is also familiar in both players and styles. Artist Phil Bender, long associated with the former Pirate Gallery in Highland, is represented with his trademark move of recycling found objects into grids of reconsidered delight. Here, he sets 12 colorful and flattened “Chinese Lanterns” into a perfect rectangle, four down and three across. The ordinary objects are elevated but in an unpretentious way; it’s pure Bender.
On the other side of the gallery, Susan Berkley shows her richly honed skills in layering, offering up “Pattern #1028.” The piece, measuring about 30 inches square, has what appears to be a nearly monochromatic tree in the background, but the scene is obscured in the foreground by horizontal red and yellow stripes, imprecisely applied in columns that turn the scene confusing and dreamlike.
Katie Hoffman, once of the Fresh Art Studio in the Santa Fe Arts District, contributes “Unfinished Catastrophe,” one of her timeless takes on formal portraiture. This one appears to combine figures from royalty and high society (and a “Statue of Liberty”) into an abstraction that crosses geography and time periods.
There is, in the mix, a bit of this and that. Pure painterly abstraction from Philip Rader, Katherine Johnson, Fred Pichon and Karen Roehl; reconstructed, three-dimensional sculpture from Claudia Voulier, Wynn Reynolds and Jonathan Dow; photo prints from Laura Phelps Rogers; and the …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – News