Now here's a good idea for a show: Take several score regional artists and have them submit, under pseudonyms, artworks that are very different in style, medium and execution from their usual work. In other words, let sculptors become photographers, printmakers become painters, or let photographers create installations. Whimsical, liberating, lighthearted ... not bad!
About a year ago, local artist Liz Szabo came to UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art director/curator Gerry Riggs with just that idea. Szabo suggested that the show be structured as a fund-raiser, a fun way for artists and gallery supporters to come together and support the GCA. Initially, Riggs rejected the idea, thinking that it would put an undue burden on artists -- but times change.
As he wrote in a letter to area artists, inviting their participation: "I urgently need your help to continue our mission. Thanks to the prevailing political winds, the federal and state granting agencies that we rely on to help fund our shows have all but dried up ... your participation in AKA would clearly illustrate that the museum plays a leading role in the cultural life of our community."
Riggs must be delighted with the response to his letter -- no less than 81 artists answered the call, and submitted works.
And, happily, it's a great show. As you'd expect, it's uneven, uninhibited and unpredictable -- but scarcely untalented. It's delightful and challenging to look at anonymous works of art, many created by the biggest dogs of the local art scene, and try to sort them out. It's all for sale, it's pretty reasonably priced, and some of it is extraordinarily good.
First up, Al Fresco's large-scale pointillist pen-and-ink drawing, "Last Look." In it, a pair of figures gazes over a barbed-wire fence, silently contemplating an extensive landscape. There's not a line in this drawing -- just dots of ink. It's maniacally precise -- talk about small-motor coordination! -- yet free and expansive. Not bad, Al (whoever you are!).
And don't miss George Bridgewater's "Kreutzer Sonata." A little Giorgio de Chirico, a little Salvador Dali, and a little Zap Comix. Imagine, as "George" did, a vast violin floating on a stormy sea, with a solemn gentleman sitting on said violin, carefully playing (what else!) a violin.
There are a couple of tributes to Jackson Pollock, good-sized drip paintings that just don't work particularly well. Pollock was sui generis, an artist who created, defined and mastered a particular style -- you can imitate him, just as you can imitate Elvis, but so what? The King is still the King.
Some artists stuck to their own style/medium, or so it seems. There's a lovely black-and-white photograph of a nude dancer by Star Williams, Jr. -- now who might that be? And there are a bunch of very accomplished photographs by artists who, presumably, are not primarily photographers. I liked Ginger Beach's "San Miguel Door," and Luscious Lou's "Grenade," as well as Robin Richardson's "Aguilar School."
Now you're probably thinking that, given the lineup, which includes real names like Jean Gumpper, Don Green, Sean O'Meallie, Carol Dass, Lew Tilley, Cathy Porter Brown and Bill Burgess, that you could plop down a few bucks and score a significant piece of art for very little. And maybe you can, but you'll never know who created it -- the artists won't tell you, and neither will Riggs.
But go, and buy if you can. Thanks in part to Colorado's self-created fiscal crisis, the GCA's budget has shrunk by a third -- it's up to us to help keep it afloat.
AKA: Also Known As
UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.; Saturday 1-4 p.m.
Through March 19