July 25, 2019
Spark's Fortieth-Anniversary Show, Two Solos Offer Trip Through Art History
July 24, 2019
Michael Paglia

Spark's Fortieth-Anniversary Show, Two Solos Offer Trip Through Art History
July 24, 2019
Michael Paglia

Spark Gallery is the city’s oldest still-active artist co-operative; it was started by a bunch of Boulder emigres in late 1979, just a month or so before the launch of Pirate, which is often thought to be Denver's first co-op. So Spark is marking its fortieth birthday this year, and its current members decided to toast the founders, as well as other earlier Spark-sters, with a pair of exhibits this summer. The first, Spark Gallery 40th Anniversary Show, Part I, is open now; Part II opens on August 1.

A committee of members and past members put the exhibitions together, and the first one represents a history lesson on local vanguard art of a generation or so ago. Sadly, no historic narrative has been put together to explain how Spark came together, so viewers are left to figure things out on their own. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: History Colorado ought to be recording the reminiscences of the founding members, most of whom are happily still alive, some of them the key contemporary artists to emerge in Colorado in the late twentieth century.

I wasn’t in Denver when Spark was founded, but over the years, I’ve learned (and even surmised) quite a bit. First, it was named for Margaret Neumann’s dog, Sparky. Second, it was the ultimate conclusion of a chain of events that form a dotted line through Colorado's contemporary art scene. Among its direct antecedents are Drop City, the Armory Group, Criss-Cross and Boulder’s Edge Gallery (no connection to the co-op now in Lakewood). Taken together, these connections demonstrate how important Spark was — and is — to the big picture of this state’s contemporary art history.

Though no particular style defined the efforts of Spark's founders, several of them were concerned with mathematically derived compositions — typically patterns, but also more complex axiomatic images. That’s certainly the case with Clark Richert, Richard Kallweit, Charles DiJulio, Jerry Johnson, Marilyn Nelson and the nearly forgotten spiritual mentor to all of them, George Woodman. Sculptor Andy Libertone is doing something related but clearly different, though he has the same taste for hard edges as the others. (Libertone was an early guiding light for Spark, and lived above the co-op's first location, at West 32nd Avenue and Osage Street.) There were also founders who embraced a range of representational approaches, from neo-expressionist Neumann to realist John Fudge and even artists creating work with a cartoonish tilt, exemplified by Paul Gillis. His stunning if idiosyncratic “Untitled” is one of the show’s standouts.

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January 17, 2017
Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts
J. Willard Marriott Library
The University of Utah, 01/17/2017

The University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library will host the art exhibition Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts, Jan. 20-March 3.

Artnauts, an art collective formed 20 years ago by George Rivera, professor of art and art history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, consists of 300 global artists who serve as goodwill ambassadors, acknowledging and supporting victims of oppression worldwide. Their creativity has generated over 230 exhibitions across five continents. Five faculty members from the U’s Department of Art and Art History are members of the collective, Sandy Brunvand, Beth Krensky, V. Kim Martinez, Brian Snapp and Xi Zhang.

Globalocation derives from “Globalocational Art” — a concept used by the Artnauts to refer to their exhibitions in international venues. It is the mission of the Artnauts to take art to places of contention, and this anniversary exhibition is a sample of places where they have been and themes they have addressed.

“The Artnauts could not exist without the commitment of the artists in the collective to a common vision of the transformative power of art,” said Rivera. “The Artnauts make their contribution with art that hopefully generates a dialogue with an international community on subjects that are sometimes difficult to raise.”

Krensky, associate department chair of the Art and Art History Department, had the opportunity to travel with Rivera in Chile as part of an Artnauts project, working with mothers who were searching for their children who had mysteriously disappeared during a time of political unrest.

“When I travelled to Chile in 1998, George and I spent an afternoon with the Mothers of the Disappeared, and the meeting changed my life,” said Krensky. “It was from that moment on that I placed a picture of them on my desk to look at every day. I was so moved by what they each had lost — a son, a brother, a father — and yet what remained for them was a deep, deep well of love. They were fierce warriors and stood up to the government to demand the whereabouts and information of the people who had disappeared, but they lived within profound love.”

The 20th anniversary exhibition at the Marriott Library is a retrospective of the traveling works the Artnauts have toured around the globe. The exhibition will be located on level three of the library. The opening reception is open to the public and will be held on Friday, Jan 20, 4-6 p.m. Rivera will speak at 4 p.m.

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