Colorado Artists is an uneven, richly instructive show. The earnest statement posted by the two diligent jurors, former Manitou residents Tracy and Sushe Felix, is correct: Abstract art is a serious form, and "it needs to be respected and viewed."
But what we have here, mostly, is a lot of fun. With the works of amateurs and serious professionals hanging side by side, call it a class in art appreciation.
If you like big, inventive and beautiful art, you'll like Amy Torpey's sinuous fiber sculptures, fashioned from copper, aluminum, nylon and welding rods (though not all in the same piece). Three of Torpey's quirky, visually arresting weavings dominate the show. Her dreamy sculpture of welding rods woven together with nylon is light and insubstantial, floating down from the ceiling in a series of graceful helixes. The Felixes deservedly awarded it Best In Show.
Eric and Mary Anne Bransby would hate to be called the grand old couple of Colorado art, especially because their work is still as fresh, vital and youthful as it was in the 1940s. Mary Anne's watercolors are technically masterful, swirling and complex. And across the room, Eric's semi-abstract gouache, serene and rhythmic, could be used to teach composition in a master class.
Jill Spear's work in watercolor and gold leaf, "The Implied Power of Uniform," is crisp and a little menacing, proving that the word "abstract" does not mean muddy and meaningless. Hard-edged, contrasty and skillfully crafted, it pops off the wall to grab your attention.
Having returned from an extended stay in Italy, Holly Parker displays work that departs from her more careful, geometric and painstaking portfolio. "Umbrian Distraction," oil on acrylic paper, is softly textural, muted and inviting. There's no obvious form, no clearly stated design -- just the simple delight of surface, the subtle interplay of color and shape.
David Ball's bold and colorful paper collages are simple forms inspired by microbiology (one is titled "Dance of Cells") and recall Matisse at his playful best.
The show additionally exhibits dozens of three-dimensional pieces. Andra Martin, whose commercial work in fused glass consists of cheerfully schlocky dishes -- the kind of tschotkes your grandmother just loved -- proves what she can do when liberated from the craft-show aesthetic. "The Divide," a glowingly abstract serving dish, is a design and technique tour de force. And Kathryn Brega's carefully assembled fabric creations -- more commonly referred to as 'quilts' -- are quietly alive.
Finally, Judy Smith's raku vase, "Into the Mystic," is simple, unpretentious and affordable ($60!). It's the kind of work that makes a show like this -- in which an unknown ceramic artist holds her own among the big dogs -- such a treat.
-- John Hazlehurst
Colorado Artists: Driven to Abstraction, An Alternate View -- Another Language
Business of Art Center, Hagnauer Gallery, 513 Manitou Ave.
Tues. through Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through June 24
Call 685-1861 for more.