It's rare to be able to recommend an art exhibit to everyone in the community — that's everyone — but there's a surprisingly broad appeal to "Time, Space and Motion," the first-ever retrospective of Colorado artist Robert Mangold's charismatic 3-D works, now up at the Arvada Center.
For 55 years, Mangold has taken a curious approach to exploring materials and motion and how they interact. His forms are colorful and inventive, well-crafted and optimistic. His pieces zig and zag, they turn inside and out. They move — some for real, ready for the wind to give them a whirl; others in the way they turn and curl in on themselves, inviting the viewer to move around and catch different angles.
A 6-year-old would thrill to the lively shapes and bright hues (can you say "kinetic"?). Her grandfather would appreciate the way this exhibit travels the evolution of a very interesting mind whose best ideas were captured in welded steel.
The Mangold look-back is long overdue and a good fit for the Arvada Center's unfussy, first-floor gallery space and its surrounding lawn. Curator Collin Parson went the distance here, rounding up works from Mangold's own collection, along with holdings from the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Arts, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, the University of Denver and the Museum of Outdoor Art.
Mangold's style is familiar to local viewers who have seen his works displayed in outdoor settings across the area, including his tree-like sculptures in Civic Center. Familiar, too, is the artist himself. He taught at the University of Denver during the 1960s, then spent another three decades at Metropolitan State College.
But the collected assemblage offers a chance to fully connect what Mangold — who was born in 1930 and made his first sculpture in 1955 in his native Indiana — was seeing over those long years.
The exhibit has four parts, each devoted to a phase in Mangold's career. The first is his series of "Anemotives," painted steel vanes with colorful wind-catching flaps that move as the breeze will take them. They are not perfect objects for a gallery setting (there is no wind inside), but it's easy for viewers to picture these bright, light constructivist gizmos spinning fast or slow as the their power source wavers.
Just as interesting are his fixed works. Mangold's "I-Beam" series shows the artist as explorer, repeating the same general shapes of an I-beam with small shifts in form and material. Steel is dominant, as it is in all his work, but here we get it chromed, polished, torch-cut, arc-welded, rusted and more. His "Tetrahedralhyperspheres" series stands apart from the rest of the work. There's the same turning of metal, but the pieces take on a more anipomorphic tone. They look like dinosaurs sometimes, or birds or maybe bones.
The show ends with a look at Mangold's latest fancy, the series he titles "PTTSAAES" (for a "Point Traveling Through Space at an Erratic Speed"). These consist mainly of steel bars or rods that jag upward or outward in lightning-bolt fashion. A viewer can imagine Mangold envisioning a spark of energy, barely controllable, pushing its force out of the earth or into space, then capturing the idea in still form.
Though "still" may not be the right word. These objects are restless, and though they came to him late in his career, they sum up his output perfectly.
Some retrospective exhibits play out like history lessons, informative biographies of their subjects' lives. The best of them, like this one, unfold in narratives. "Time, Space and Motion" tells the story of an artist who started out making objects that move and then one day learned to capture movement in static form. It has a happy ending, and that's just one more thing to like about it.
Ray Mark Rinaldi: 303-954-1540 or firstname.lastname@example.org