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Cyberskins show at Colorado College is serious fun

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When artist Bently Spang described his art show at Colorado College's Coburn Gallery as "the residue from the Tekcno Powwow," I had some doubts. And when I first walked into the gallery and saw cling wrap over the walls, I was bewildered. But within minutes, my misgivings disappeared.

The Bently Spang: Cyberskins show, which will be on display at Coburn until Dec. 12, is the art-exhibit recreation of a performance that Spang held at the college on Oct. 6. Titled Tekcno Powwow II: The Return of the Funk, the event mixed traditional Native American music and dance with a DJ and breakdancing by the Soul Mechanics. The performance and this follow-up exhibit both attempt to bring images of our country's native indigenous cultures to the future.

But Cyberskins does more than simply offer up the leftovers of the Tekcno Powwow; it's a crystallized version of the performance.

Spang's outlandish costume from the performance, a gold lam jumpsuit, is now vacuum-sealed into sheets of clear plastic kitchen wrapping. Intimidating upon first look, it becomes less so the more you look at it. These plastic trappings almost act like the animal hides that were once used to record stories and events.

Spang further tells his story of the powwow with a video projection on the wall. It's not only beautiful, but integral in bringing the audience up to speed about where all these displays came from. The camera flexes from sharp imagery to haziness, zooming in and out to catch details on the costumes of the Indian dancers and then backing away to silhouette the dancers in a warm glow of expert lighting.

But despite Spang's use of modern technology to flash his video on the wall, his favorite mediums are clearly the found objects he has re-fashioned into meaningful accoutrements. In one piece, Spang has braided neckties into a representation of indigenous hair braiding. Spang's pride for his nation is one of his greatest sources of inspiration, and you can sense this in the gallery.

Even more obvious is the care Spang has put into this show. He only had a week's time between the performance and the exhibit itself to pull together these displays an enormous feat for any artist. Each part of the installation conforms to his positive philosophy, yet leaves room for some refreshing silliness. One piece drapes a plastic lawn chair over boxing gloves and a shiny satin robe. The gloves are scrawled with the words "Fighting Cheyenne," while the robe is emblazoned with "The Funk," in glittery lettering.

Cyberskins houses important issues about the development of modern Native American culture, but manages to avoid placing guilt. Spang includes everyone in his buoyant parade.

scene@csindy.com Capsule:

Bently Spang: Cyberskins

Colorado College's Coburn Gallery, 14 E. Cache la Poudre St.

Tuesday through Saturday, 12:30 to 7:30 p.m., through Dec. 12

Tickets: Free; call 719-227-8269 or visit coloradocollege.edu/coburn for information.

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