Art: Colorado's Month of Photography pulls 180 Denver galleries into the frame
  Resource:denverpost   2013-03-05 08:59:11  

Mark Sink is trying to get at what's real and what's not, and that is hard to do in photography these days.

Everyone's a manipulator in 2013, from the app users to the air brushers, the old croppers to the young Photoshoppers, the animators to the simulators.

So what makes a photo authentic? Sink can't say exactly, though he does have an eye for it, and he is willing to discuss the subject curatorially.

Joining him in the conversation: 180 galleries who are taking part in his Month of Photography where the theme is about separating the fake from the genuine. The vast group of mostly group shows throughout March might just be the most organized effort in Colorado art


On the surface, anyway. Galleries can do whatever they want during the biennial event, which started in 2005 and has grown exponentially since. They just need to turn their attention to photography for a few weeks, give fine art's second-class citizen the respect it deserves.

For photography fans, the event is a gift. MoP, as it's called, presents a wide view on the genre and how it is evolving in a technology-driven world. As a fine-art category, photos are a relative bargain; some collectors turn the event into an excuse to shop big.

That makes it even better for photographers who actually get a second look from the high-minded galleries that more often turn their walls space over to painters or mixed-media artists.

"Suddenly this becomes rich and fertile territory for them" said Sink. About three months before the event "galleries are rabidly looking for photography."

That goes for serous establishments like the Museum of Contemporary Art as well as places that do art on the side, like the Bardo Coffee Shop on South Broadway. Baldwin Gallery in Aspen is showing Robert Mapplethorpe this month. The McNichols Building in Civic Center has a group show from Japan and Norway.

The colleges are in and so are the districts: Santa Fe, RiNo, Cherry Creek, Tennyson and downtown. Galleries north to Fort Collins, south to Colorado Springs, west to Durango are on board.

Add to that lectures, workshops and tours — nearly all of it orchestrated by Sink, and much of it starring him

He's curated the exhibit "The Reality of Fiction" at RedLine, the "nerve center"

gallery for the MoP. He did the show "A Natural Order" at the MCA. His own photos will be on display at the Byers-Evans House Gallery, which is hosting "Now and Then" an update on members of the The Denver Salon photography group founded 20 years ago — by Sink.

"He knows everybody," said Rupert Jenkins, executive director of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, the gallery and teaching center in Lakewood's Belmar business district. CPAC is giving its Hal Gould Vision in Photography Award, named for Denver's legendary gallerist, to Sink on March 28.

"He's incredibly receptive to just about everything," said Jenkins, "He doesn't burn bridges, and he's not overly judgmental."

Sink might agree with that himself, or not. He's respected as an artist, appreciated as an organizer and beloved as a mentor. A lot of photographers in MoP shows have Sink to thank for their inclusion.

And he has serious cred. His great grandfather was James L. Breese, a celebrated photographer of New York City society in the late 19th century. Further back, he's related to Samuel Finley Breese Morse, the inventor and painter. Sink's father, Charles Sink, was an architect who designed the sleek One Cheesman Tower on the edge of the park, perhaps Denver's best-looking residential high-rise.


does seem to know everyone. There are photos of him hanging out with Andy Warhol as a young man. He's had some fun.

But he's not so easy when it comes to photography, especially now. He works in digital himself sometimes, but he's suspicious of the tricks photographers pull. Mobile apps, like Instagram, which allow any iPhone user to make ordinary snapshots looks artful, annoy him.

"My whole thing is: Just be true to the medium," he said. "Stop trying to look analog when something is digital. Embrace it."

Keeping it "real"

You can understand what Sink means by looking at the photos he picked for "The Reality of Fiction" at RedLine.

The artists capture real "fake" things, like Edie Winograde's photos of Wild West-enactors, or Joe Clower's sci-fi-influenced black-and-white shots of flying saucers, or Reiner Riedler's pictures of fantasy vacation destinations — Chinese theme parks that look like ancient Egypt.

Photoshop is a fine tool for an artist, interesting. But authenticity is limited to the second when the shutter opens and closes.

Of course, MoP galleries will be full of manipulated images and much of the work is skilled and engaging, and often created by younger artists who embrace technology.

Multi-media artist Mario Zoots, for example, will show seven small photo collages at the MCA, all created from images torn out of old books, the sort of thing Sink might favor. But Zoots is also showing large portraits that he changed up on his computer, at Gildar Gallery.

There isn't a huge distinction, he said, between the real and the fake. It's all art, and technology makes it possible and — just as important — accessible in a way that has allowed his career to flourish.

"I'm from Denver," said Zoots, who is 31. "I grew up on the west side, in a low-income family. And here I am this artist traveling around the world because I made a collage in Photoshop and put it on Flickr."

Sink and Zoots aren't that far apart, really. They're good pals, and compliment each other's work sincerely. Sink has helped Zoots, more than once, get his work into galleries.

It's that open-minded collegiality that's behind MoP overall. It's a long way from a high-end showplace like the Denver Art Museum to downtown Denver's Jumbo Tron video screens, but both are embracing the photo moment, and both fit right into the ambitious effort.

"When you start to see all this energy come together, it's amazing," said Sink.

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