Sick and Twisted at Showpen Residency
I met curator, artist and residency founder, Donald Fodness over at Showpen for a preview of the drawing based exhibition, "Sick and Twisted." Fodness was meeting an artist to finish an installation piece and not all of the works were up and running yet. That was just fine though as these works hold their own. Spending time with these small dense drawings and assorted cluster of paintings I had the luxury of viewing without interference. The small gallery rests just inside the door and is bounded by two studios and the kitchen. On the night of the opening the space will be packed pretty tightly with the artist community checking each piece out. Get there a little early and see the space for what it really holds; conversations and communities that are in constant flux. This residency and gallery is also a labor of love. Fodness and his wife, Tonya Runnels-Fodness, own the property and instead of renting it out at market value they've elected to use it to foster artists at the cost of the mortgage. As a building from 1900, the place is not the brightest nor the most beautiful, but it's very real. These types of projects take energy and a commitment that can be overlooked or undervalued if posited next to spectacular showcases. I think it's to be lauded as part of the alternative conversations that attract and re-engage Denver's contemporary artists. (Note here: it's also takes knowing the difference between events like Rudolf Stingel's splashy exhibition at the 55th Venice Biennale and the beautiful, yet humble (in comparison) exhibition, "Welcome to Iraq" at the National Pavilion of Iraq.) Each time I've attended an opening at Showpen, the selected curator has used the unique qualities and nooks of the space to put together an intimate salon of works. Derrick Velasquez, one of the artists-in-residence is usually in the kitchen offering up booze or coffee in small hand-held clay beakers. Last night Velasquez wasn't there but, when I walked in the room, the two square drawings by Roger Allan Cleaves drew me in with their washed punches of color held in by simple black frames. Unlike most of the other drawings in this exhibition; Cleaves' drawings go up to the edge of the paper. Bounded only by the edge, adding a frame to these pieces seems essential to the understanding of the constriction of the work within itself. Cleaves' drawing on the top left (see below) depicts a multi-gendered monster fighting it's way out of a box where a person speaks out of both sides of his mouth, limbs are askew, or cut off and reassembled hapharzardly with construction rope. A noose dangles menacingly from a red, white and blue candle that forms a surreal joke about nostalgia. It's an updated portrait of Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man. The work by Josh Nemec, on the right, brought to mind the cartoonish character and pop culture icon, Insane Clown Posse. Nemec tightly crosshatches a scene where a guy from Cops tickets a Shark Week crash. Andrew Odlin's painting, Freedom of Niche, transverses between both Philip Guston's forms and de Kooning's palette and frenetic activity. The depicted big baby isn't a de Kooning woman but, an old man wearing a diaper and inhabiting a squash of mess. On the opposite side, works by Matt O'Neill, Jazzmyn Barbosa,Tamara Zibners and Melissa (Rebel Con) Dominguez form another small installation of works that reinforced my feeling of having walked into (use your imagination here) one of The Chicago Imagist's series of exhibitions titled "Hairy Who?" Fodness has placed super-emerging artist, Melissa (Rebel Con) Dominguez's untitled on top of the door sill. The piece with it's placement acts both as a placeholder for a poor man's decor and a referent to the frescoed Madonna gracing us with her presence over the entrance door to a holy place. This drawing, with it's flaming vagina, is the last piece the viewer sees before propelled back outside onto the urban street of the Santa Fe Art District. Read into it what you will. Though remember, the title of the exhibition is "Sick and Twisted."