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Vignettes from UCCS Colorado Collection trot out modern giants

click to enlarge Trust us, Hung Lius lithorgraph/collage portrait  The - Bride looks far better in color.
  • Trust us, Hung Lius lithorgraph/collage portrait The Bride looks far better in color.

Three or four years may pass before we see another exhibit from Colorado University Art Museum's extensive Colorado Collection like that currently on display at the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art.

Four vignettes comprise the collaborative show by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and CU's flagship Boulder campus. Contemporary works from diverse perspectives evoke gentle smiles or sighs of recognition, and manage to express a catalog of seemingly inexpressible moments.

The Books, Maps and Multiples: Contemporary Graphic Art vignette features "My Heavens!" by Jane Hammond, in which a celestial map's fantasy zodiac serves as a window to "how different cultures looked at the sky and interpreted their lives." While it's the personal favorite of UCCS gallery director Gerry Riggs, it's not the only piece that plays with mythology and place.

Enrique Chagoya's codex (an unfolded book of bound leaves of paper or parchment), "The Adventures of the Modernist Cannibals," moves through the history of indigenous cultures despoiled at the hands of European explorers. One scene juxtaposes a traditional engraving of the New World's discovery with 20th-century battleships and submarines.

A Looking Glass of One's Own: Contemporary Women Photographers offers a variety of style and substance. Carrie Mae Weems' haunting black-and-white "Kitchen Table" captures the deceptive silence of a couple's tension, while Meridel Rubenstein's seminal "Atomic Coke Bottle" palladium print delivers detail so vivid that you can almost feel the texture of the cracked White Sands desert, where Coke bottles fused with earth during nuclear tests.

In its quiet spaces of line and shape, Minimalism: Presence-Absence feels like the prescription to a migraine; it occasionally erupts, though, in startling color or progression. The balance of hue and form in Sol LeWitt's "Double Composite" calms with its mandala-like geometry. Prints by Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella and Dorothea Rockburne avoid the superfluous with Zen-like discipline, revealing a presence within absence.

Two Mexican Views: Photographs by Paul Strand and Manuel Bravo celebrates the contributions of legendary men. Bravo, acclaimed in his homeland as a "vagabond visionary," presents an insider's view of terrain and temperament. Strand, a mentor of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, pioneered the technical method known as "photogravure" and was part of the movement that lifted photography into the realm of fine art, with sensitive compositions such as "Boy-Uruapan."

Gallery director Riggs credits former CU president Elizabeth Hoffman with forging the relationship that will expose Springs residents to more than 5,000 pieces of modern art in the expansive permanent Colorado Collection.

The collection, started in 1939, originally was intended as an instructive resource for students. Through acquisitions and contributions like the major gifts of Polly and Mark Addison, it has grown in size and importance.

-- Rebekah Shardy

capsule

Selections from the Colorado Collection: Four Vignettes

Gallery of Contemporary Art, UCCS (NW upstairs corner of Science Building)

Through August 5, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.

Free; for more information call 262-3567.

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