Gary Keimig; Douglas Vogel

UMC Gallery, Boulder; The Gallery

Gary Keimig, at the UMC Gallery, Boulder, has taken to heart the airbrush techniques of the technical illustrators and used them, plus older tools, to produce a series of paintings which utilizes the sense of contemporary machine details, including the ubiquitous curved pipes and columns of what Charles Eames called “the new prestige image,” the space-rocket launching pads and gantrys’ accoutrements. The anthropomorphic suggestions of these mechanical items seem to appear in meticulous transformed and intimately suggestive surreal layers of reality. Male and female reflections or suggestions of organs are squeezed at the ends of immaculately painted flat glassy suggestions of tubes. Cross-sections of complex machine parts are overlaid with ribbons of color which suddenly suggest anatomical references, yet remain vividly hard-edged and thin. Keimig has carried this immaculate craftsmanship (which is either provincial or the new “in,” depending on where you stand) over into a series of constructions which utilize the real tactile elements he hesitates from depicting too thoroughly. Using banks of shaped plywood disks, sanded, varnished and polished, he makes the very edges of the resin of the material read as contours which both define and defy the organic volumes which he realizes with the material. One of the most recent is an untitled work which the curator of the Wichita Municipal Art Museum refused to include in a recent exhibit of his work because it seemed to him “obscene.”

Douglas Vogel hails from Minneapolis, studied advanced painting at San Jose State, and moved a year ago to Colorado. A one-man show at The Gallery in Denver illustrates his addition to the local artistic milieu, and it may well prove germinal. In a review of his early work I referred to him as “brash and obscure.” In the last year the brashness has diminished as he has gained greater control of the particular kind of definite and precise content-oriented, nearly monochromatic images he chooses to create.

Vogel’s work falls between painting and assembly. A case in point is the unfinished “environment,” for which he was given a creative research grant of $775 by the University of Colorado, which will be the keynote of The Gallery exhibit, filling a 15 x 20-foot upstairs room. The Gallery, by the way, is Denver’s major showplace for painters and sculptors working in contemporary idioms, and seriously investigating the boundaries of the art of our time in this part of the country.

An illustrative example of this crossing of boundaries is the work Old Shoes Revisited, assembled of a collage of a body-print of the artist’s head, a cantilevered deck with Salvation Army Store shoes, and an oil superimposition in green of a slice of another reality, another view of a head, all arranged to theatrically evoke the primitive expressionistic response to the Van Gogh self-portrait, the same artist’s painting of his shoes, and today’s realization of the impossibility of our seeing those works (or that artist) except through the reversed telescope of our imaginations; diminished and changed, not the same, with no chance of making them as they were then, no matter how hard we try. Therefore the old image is transformed into almost a photographic projection of the original. The shoes are painted in photographic negative, with light grey shadow contours, dark grey highlights. A photograph of the painting seriously distorts the direct perceptual response: the original looks like a three dimensional photographic transformation of a solid, whereas the photograph looks like a subtly distorted photograph of a painting of shoes done in an illustrative manner.

His other works are final illustrations of the continuity of that fantastic conceptual landscape which suddenly seems pervasive here, though. The Big Jump shows a tumbling athletic figure in very flat paint against a grey-green sky propelled over a three-dimensional dollhouse with a plaster “little black Sambo” trotting by the entrance. The immediate response is that this is a rather blatant social commentary; the secondary is more that the world of the mind of the artist is a rather scary place when he can successfully translate that internal vision of private landscape into space and form which we can perceive and carry away with us.

Arnold Gassan