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Ordinary Manitou 

At Smokebrush's Manitou exhibit, you'll see just what you expect to see

The fastest way to piss off an audience is to set a piece of sheetrock in a gallery and call it "art." Slap a giant price tag on it, and everyone's really bothered.

Artist Larry Kledzik did just this with his submission "Red and White" to Extraordinary Manitou, the newest art show hanging at the Smokebrush Gallery. Kledzik painted two large slabs of sheetrock, one red, the other white, and placed them on the floor. Then he finished it off by putting little piles of ground-up sheetrock on the top and a dusting of it around the edges. Then he added the best part of all: a $25,000 purchase price.

Kledzik's work would have been something during the minimalist movement in the '50s and '60s, but those days came and went. Unfortunately, the same could be said for a lot of Extraordinary Manitou.

Curator Melanie Grimes invited artists from Manitou Springs to show in the gallery, as an homage to the region's favorite hamlet. Unfortunately, nothing jumps out as strikingly original. No doubt, it is enjoyable, much like its muse, but the landscapes, political works, dulcimers and pottery are what we expect when we walk into the gallery.

Even among headliners Charles H. Rockey and Jermaine Rogers, there is little inspiration. The works displayed have been shown before in Rockey's open studio and at Rogers' first show at Smokebrush.

Ken and Tina Riesterer, other big names in the Manitou arts circuit, offer much more. Ken Riesterer's landscape piece "From Intemann Trail" shines in the crowd of other landscapes.

Riesterer painted a large oil, looking north over Manitou. It sounds boring, but it is quite beautiful and robust. Garden of the Gods, brushed in mauve, frames the rolling green hills behind Highway 24. All we see of Manitou proper is a cluster of huddled houses just barely peeking out from the canyon valley. The viewer is placed right in Riesterer's steps, and all around, grasses heaps of them curl and tremble in Riesterer's sun-splashed light. Painted in ribbons of greens, yellows, blues and purples, the brush is dense and vibrant without becoming a sinister barrier.

"From Intemann Trail" is refreshing because the focus of the work isn't obvious. The viewer is so wrapped up in the twisting array of grasses that the background becomes secondary. While the view is recognizable, it doesn't scream "Manitou!" like many others do.

So maybe Kledzik's piece does have something going for it: "Red and White" is the certainly most un-Manitou thing in the room. Situated right by one of the gallery's doors, it forces the crowd to tiptoe around it. My guest thought the whole thing was a joke. Another viewer commented that maybe the "process is the piece," adding that Kledzik's studio floor might have been his inspiration.

Whatever his motives were, his piece gets people talking. And in a show that otherwise offers exactly what the bill promises, that says a lot.

scene@csindy.com

Extraordinary Manitou
The Smokebrush Gallery, 218 W. Colorado Ave.
Monday through Friday, 1-5 p.m., through Dec. 14
Tickets: Free, call 444-1012 or visit smokebrush.org for information.

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