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Christopher Lynn's first UCCS show offers complete package of artistic discovery

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Colorado Springs has been waiting for a show like this. In a gallery space stripped down to bare, clean concrete, new curator Christopher Lynn offers up a new generation of world-class artworks to the Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Manifest: Colonial Tendencies of the West, is a highly developed show that is both beautiful and substantial. Its main theme is that of the post-colonial world. Modern symbols of colonization by western powers are the backbone of the exhibit. There are plenty of sharp social commentaries here, but they are balanced by bits of humor and enjoyable images.

Lynn first introduced these themes with his "Pre-Show Appetizer" in late August. With Manifest, Lynn keeps the education going by offering a handout with a brief description of each of the show's featured artists. For those who missed the initial lecture, or do not have much experience interpreting art, this playbook is invaluable. While it leaves the final opinions to the viewer, it acquaints them with the exhibit, which otherwise may seem a bit daunting.

The first piece that will catch the viewer's eye when entering the exhibit is Kehinde Wiley's "Madonna of the Rosary." Wiley's painting of an aloof African-American youth in street clothes with a rosary dangling from his fingers is amusing and arresting. The style is realistic, like that of a Baroque master, but instead of capturing religious fervor, Wiley paints fashionable expressions of confidence and distance. A large, fancy white frame extends Wiley's neo-Baroque feel, itself an element of the artwork.

Part of the reason that Wiley's work is so profound is the grandeur it adds to the space. At nearly 6 by 8 feet, the piece is colossal, visually raising the ceilings in the gallery. Like an authentic Baroque work, it draws all the attention from the gallery by virtue of its sheer magnificence.

Other additions to the canon may not be as massive, but they still hold major significance. One such inclusion is Danny Ledonne's Super Columbine Massacre RPG video game. Two computers are set up on desks in the corner of the gallery, inviting viewers to play the game. It does not break up the flow of traffic, but the shift needed for a viewer to switch gears from perusing a gallery to sitting down to play a computer game is a little abrupt. Computers are almost too utilitarian to act as a piece of art, especially when they are to be, well, used. However, in just the way that art is innovative, so is the act of installation. Lynn is experimenting with something quite new here, and that alone is something worth appreciating.

The Manifest show shares elements with the recently disassembled RADAR: Selections from the Collection of Vicki & Kent Logan, which exhibited at the Denver Art Museum. Like RADAR, Lynn's show employs novelty. But whereas RADAR oozed a subversive aggression, Manifest feels more calm and calculated.

Lynn has done a commendable job in refreshing his gallery and offering a show so rigorous. It sets a promising tone not only for the Gallery of Contemporary Art, but also for the area arts scene as a whole.

Capsule:
Manifest: Colonial Tendencies of the West
Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy.
Runs through Nov. 17
Free. Hours: Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit galleryuccs.org or call 262-3567.

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