It's always interesting to see what happens when you unload the capital A from Art. The Business of Art Center's latest show, The Fine Art of Toys, is a perfect example of how a lighthearted approach to anything will often yield the most imaginative results.
Far and away the most interesting show at the BAC in the past year, and probably the most compelling gathering of local artists' works since the Fine Arts Center's Colorado 2002 show, Toys is fun, irreverent, political and refreshingly weird.
Take Dina Pownell's "Fear of Body Type." Treading in a realm often bogged by therapeutic cliches of body politics, Powell created a group of green plastic Army figures that, upon closer inspection, turn out to be large-and-in-charge ladies toting M-16s placed carefully around a model of what looks like a heavily shelled building in Beirut. Smart. Well-crafted. Political. Fun. Hallelujah.
Darlene Grubbs seems to have found an almost identical vein with her "Critic's Toy." Working in model scale, Grubbs created a clever gallows with a lady in the noose and all-too-jolly stick of a man pulling the lever to hang her when you tug on a string. So bleeding heart! So tortured artist! And you're right -- it's just what I want for X-mas. So irony of ironies.
Not everything is so dark.
Christy Callaham's "Flying Dreamer" is a gorgeous papier-mch acrobat who glides along a string across the room. I want that.
Katy Douthit made this hot little dog out of upholstery materials: red vinyl with a doily doggy sweater. I want that.
Amy Clay's monumental doll "Beulah Belle" with the waving hand on a pulley reduced the scale trope to its purist delight. I want that.
Chip Shaw's ceramic "Rock Beats Paper" -- ingeniously executed conceptual-lite.
Bob and Kat Tudor's deconstructed and reanimated Billy Bob singing fish, etc. ... The huge collaboratively built train, "Inner Landscape," in the middle of the room. ... John Venezia's neurotic snowman in raver clothes ... Larry Terrfranca's magnificently sculpted "Portable Deity"...
It's all great. It's all reasonably priced. It's what you'd expect from Manitou. And it's what the BAC should continue to expect from itself.
-- Noel Black