A way with objects
Fresh, original work at the Warehouse Gallery
by John Hazlehurst
Let's start with Cicotello, a fixture in the regional art world for the last 20 years or so. Long a professor at UCCS, Cicotello has been making and exhibiting art for the last two decades, always interesting and occasionally very fine indeed.
This show is no exception. Cicotello has created several dozen small-scale digital photo-collages, sometimes employing three-dimensional objects to enhance a particular work. Typically, he uses appropriated images from the everyday scrim of impressions that so surround us that we scarcely notice them -- puckered red lips, pencils, scraps of writing. Cicotello's surfaces are smooth, glossy and unidimensional. You know that the images are appropriated, but it's impossible to guess how they might have originated or how they've been assembled, so seamlessly are they constructed. They have a strangely distant quality, like ads cut out from a '50s fashion magazine -- deracinated and stripped of original meaning. But look closely -- there's a lot more complexity that you'd expect, masked by bright, unrelentingly cheerful colors. These small, lovely and wholly absorbing pieces are very reasonably priced from $125 to $350.
Also featured are the photographs of Kreuser, an artist with an amazing command of multiple photographic media, from classic black-and-white imagery to color to cyanotypes to argyrotypes. There is some of each in the show. I liked best her "Old Classic Cars" series, fragmentary shots of carefully restored classic cars. One in particular approached perfection: a section of a pinstriped and flamed fender (probably a '35 Ford coupe) that, viewed for a few seconds, flickers between straightforward photograph and pure abstraction -- both pedestrian and otherworldly.
Finally, do not miss the large-scale, twisty, convoluted, photorealist/surrealist paintings by Jason Chase on display at the Warehouse. Young (25), brilliantly original, technically superb, Chase is one of the best artists currently showing his work in Colorado Springs. We've seen him at the Colorado Biennial at the Fine Arts Center in 2000 and earlier this year at the Sangre de Cristo's Magic Realism show, and he continues to grow, improve and surprise.
"Life at 9000 RPM," disturbing, surreal and beautiful, might better be titled "The Matrix meets Walt Disney." And "Russian Explosion," depicting a giant bottle of Stoli being poured on what appears to be an apple pie, at first appears entirely realistic. Then you notice that it's all impossible -- the sizes, the proportions, the perspective -- and why is there some sort of bizarre advertising slogan in the background? Never mind; it's wonderful, transcendent imagery that sticks in the mind.
Finally, "Urban Studies," apparently a simple, photographic rendition of torn movie posters on a downtown wall, is anything but. The half-dressed hotties, haughty and alluring and the sullen stud-muffins in the background are all wholly imagined, the artifacts of a movie that never existed.
As Chase says in his artist's statement: "What has become something like visual white noise to most people is what I'm tuned into. ... I think people need to engage themselves in the dialogue of how this country is constructed, of how corporations shape our lives, of what a lot of America really looks like: strip malls, products, consumption, isolation from the unfamiliar. ... I want everyone who sees my paintings to relate to them, to be engaged by art and to contemplate the world they live in."