Vibrant South American Multimedia Art Show Ending
Few of the joys of viewing art top the thrill of discovery - chancing on a heretofore unknown artist overflowing with technical skill and a fresh, well-formed vision.
Just such an experience awaits visitors to "Altered Nature: Notable Intepretations of South America," a group exhibition at the Center for Visual Art timed to conclude this weekend in conjunction with Denver Arts Week.
It features a knockout debut installation by Rosane Volchan O'Conor, a Brazilian-born artist who just moved to Boulder in August and clearly knows how to make her presence felt.
The multimedia show, organized by Cecily Cullen, the center's assistant director and curator, is billed as examining patterns and rhythms in nature and how humankind sometimes haltingly tries to come to terms with and even control them.
It is a loose, ill-defined theme that feels like an afterthought. What likely happened is that Cullen assembled a group of artists whose work appealed to her, and then she subsequently tried to identify some thread that would tie them together.
While it would certainly be a plus for the Center for Visual Art to boost its quotient of shows with more tightly defined premises, the weakness of the thematic overlay matters less here because of the strength of the included works.
At the top of the list is O'Conor's "Ambiente," which fills a 34.5 by 16 foot gallery and spills out a doorway into the center's central corridor, beckoning viewers into the lively construction. It incorporates everything from plastic tubing and handmade ceramic elements to chicken wire and gravel.
Without getting hung up on the intricacies of scientific realism, O'Conor has delved into the world of microbiology, using exquisite wall drawings and a dizzying range of sculptural creations to evoke a bustling, interconnected world of tiny organisms.
Installations are supposed to be encompassing, transformative environments, and this one is, with viewers not so much looking at "Ambiente" but really experiencing it as crinkled, overhead neon tubes - rather like illuminated drawings in space - draw them through. While managing to never seem cacophonous or cluttered, the piece bombards the viewer with visual stimulation, with elements resting on the floor, protruding from the walls and hanging at varying levels from the ceiling.
It inadvertently serves as a superb encore to "Apoptosis," a collaborative installation by Martha Russo and Katie Caron that was part of "Overthrown," a recent exhibition of contemporary ceramic works at the Denver Art Museum.
That massive installation, which partly dealt with similarly cellular and biomorphic forms, encompassed some 4,000 sculptural elements and found objects.
With "La Montaña a Trae Barcas de Azucenas, III (The Mountain Brings Us Boats Full Of Lilies, III)," Argentine artist Ana Maria Hernando, who also lives in Boulder, has created a very different kind of installation.
Much of her work draws on the folk traditions of South America, and, in this case, Hernando has repurposed crocheted petticoats made by women in Mollomarca, Peru, upending them and transforming them into water lilies. To evoke the accompanying lily pads, she has embedded in clear resin discs the embroidered doilies made by Carmelite nuns and their families in Buenos Aires.
Though far from the painterly impressions of Claude Monet, this colorful piece nonetheless conveys the sense of a lily pond in playful, vernacular fashion.
This installation, along with a selection of her collaged prints and circular wall installations composed of more of the resin discs, adds up to one of the most successful Denver displays of Hernando's work in recent memory.
Other highlights include striking photographic self-portraits by Cecilia Paredes, a Peruvian artist who splits her time between San Jose, Costa Rica, and Philadelphia. Through careful use of makeup and costumes, she blends into her patterned backdrops like a chameleon adapting to its surroundings.
"Altered Nature" is a vibrant look at the work of eight artists from an obviously artistically rich continent.