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Two new exhibits crack open a can of contemporary in Manitou

click to enlarge One of Gina Dupre's Portraits and Illusions at the BAC
  • One of Gina Dupre's Portraits and Illusions at the BAC

For those of you not cowering under the bed in expectation of catastrophe, two exhibits opened in Manitou last Friday the 13th. The Manitou Center for Photography launched Fashionably Late, featuring the work of Kevin Thayer, and the Business of Art Center ushered in an open-entry, all-media exhibition titled Revelations based on themes of inner landscapes, prophetic visions and apocalyptic scenes.

BAC curator Amy Clay thought it was appropriate to have an exhibition of this nature on the anniversary of 9/11.

"The last year has been a real time for introspection," said Clay, "and the artists have the ability to reflect the changing drift in American thought."

And indeed, the artists produced a fantastic mix of social commentary and ridicule, inner neurosis and subtle subversion. Marked by great diversity, the exhibit comes as a welcome change for those seeking visual catharsis in these times of instant replay apocalypse.

A number of the over 40 entries explored religious subjects, some reverently and some not. "Jesus Needs a Lift" is a fortuitous image captured by Michael Price of a ceramic Messiah attempting to hitch a ride on a city bus. According to Price, the piece "represents the way religion always wants a ride (into your soul)."

A group of 16 artists led by Phillip Bernal from Pueblo created "Mixed Media," one of the more thought provoking and just plain enjoyable pieces. The mixed-media collage took three years to complete and, although the piece is extremely busy, its symmetry and plethora of cultural references -- ranging from William Burroughs to Ren and Stimpy -- make it devilishly engrossing.

Local artist Marc Hubert presents two mixed-media pieces titled "Mouse in a Battle" and "Lost in the Supermarket." Both pieces, apparently torn out of sketchbooks and pasted to white boards, are influenced by the "media saturation ... and degradation" in our American lives. The bold graffiti-like cartoon images capture the anxiety-driven, hyper-colorful TV landscape that drives us to buy more useless stuff.

Colorado College student Matthew Maddox submitted a powerful and technically exceptional self-portrait. Influenced by Lucian Freud, the piece shows the artist in two shades of light, a hint at psychological complexity.

Kim Sayers-Newlin's piece, "Uninvited Transformation," is one of a number of abstract pieces that makes Revelations a nicely balanced show. Produced with fire, the piece shows layers of pattern and texture that are revealed when previous surfaces are destroyed by fire. According to Sayers-Newlin, the piece is about "being forced to find new opportunities and possibilities when it seems everything has been destroyed."

Despite the assortment of esoteric meaning, cryptic imagery and abstruse subject matter in the work, the only enigma that I found was juror Scott Snyder's choice of "Best of Show": John Sherman's painting "Landscape with Nude." Albeit a seductively colorful piece, very reminiscent of Chagall, when compared to other more original pieces in the exhibit, this piece fails to merit top honor.

Alongside the show in the Avenue Gallery is Portraits and Illusions, featuring the equally revelatory and apocalyptic paintings of Gina Dupre. These technically superb acrylics make remarkable use of both vivid color and detailed contrast in their ritual celebration of death.

The second superstition-defying exhibit, Fashionably Late at the Manitou Center for Photography, is not to be missed. Kevin Thayer's monumental floor-to-ceiling alternative process photomontages tread the line between optical art and trash pop with vividly contrasting color schemes and subjects ranging from a portrait of local artist Sean O'Meallie to a strange military romance on cereal boxes. This show, the first at the MCP in a year, marks the welcome return of Matt Chmielarczyk's deft curatorial sensibilities to the local art scene.

-- Aaron Menza

Revelations and Portraits and Illusions

Business of Art Center, 513 Manitou Ave., 685-1861

Sept. 13 through Oct. 19. Open Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

_____________________________________________

Fashionably Late: Photographs by Kevin Thayer

Manitou Center for Photography, 103 Ruxton Ave.

By appointment only. Call 963-8501.

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