Sink, who was briefly part of Andy Warhol's circle in New York City, took many photographs of the artist, including this one, "Andy in L.A.," 1981, silver print. (Photo courtesy of Byers-Evans House Gallery)
Mark Sink maintains such a ubiquitous presence in the Denver photography scene as a curator, dealer and all-around promoter that it's sometimes easy to forget that he is a significant artist in his own right.
Indeed, a strong argument can be made that at 52, he is the city's most accomplished photographer of his generation.
Unfortunately, a survey of his 35-year career on display at the Byers-Evans House Gallery does not fully back such an assertion. But that has more to do with the organization of the exhibition than the substance of his work.
Sink, in conjunction with staff members at the museum, chose to present highlights of his career, offering snatches from 12 series within his work ranging from revivals of vintage techniques like the cyanotype to pioneering experiments with early digital photography.
This approach makes clear the innovative and stylistic breadth of his work, but it shortchanges the depth of his artistry and supplies little in the way of curatorial judgment about the strengths and weaknesses within his output.
It is easy to imagine an entire exhibition devoted to Sink's insider looks at Andy Warhol and the heady New York scene that surrounded the artist-provocateur in the 1980s. Sink met the artist during a visit to Fort Collins in 1981 and briefly became a part of his circle.
Some of these Warhol-related pieces, which have been shown in recent years at the Colorado State University Art Museum and Rule Gallery, have a snapshot immediacy to them while Sink inbued others, such as "Andy in L.A." (1981), with a more formal look.
Especially noteworthy within this body of work is what he calls his "Polaroid Famous Face Series" — informal portraits of New York celebrities that have a paparazzo spontaneity that still seems very contemporary.
A dozen of these Polaroids are on view, but, again, it is easy to envision a whole gallery devoted just to the series, along with more recent
A survey of Mark Sink's career at the Byers-Evans House Gallery offers works from 12 series within his output, including "Her Body Within 1," 1979, from a group of open-shutter works he calls "Painting With Light." (Photo courtesy of Byers-Evans House Gallery)
ones that Sink has taken of Denver art-world notables. A 20-year constant in Sink's work has been his use of Dianas — cheap, plastic cameras that produce a kind of soft, Pictorialist effect that the photographer has long fancied.
Included are 10 Diana-produced black-and-white images, including moody views of Central Park, Gramercy Park and the Brooklyn Bridge from the 1980s and '90s.
It is disappointing that the show includes just two examples of Sink's photograms, which are among the most striking subgroups within his output. These images are created by placing objects directly on photographic paper and exposing them to light, an approach popularized by Man Ray and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy early in the 20th century.
He used different kinds of bottles and glasses for a number of these images, such as "Wine Glass" (1996), creating an otherworldly, glowing effect. And in others, such as "Stars No. 1" (1996), he sprinkled flour, baking powder, salt and dust on the photographic paper, resulting in images that look stunningly celestial.
Despite whatever shortcomings this show might have, it does provide a quick, useful overview of Sink's work to date and, equally important, it whets the appetite for more.
Perhaps it will spur another institution, such as the Denver Art Museum, with its new photography department, to undertake a more considered look at an essential figure in Denver's contemporary photography scene. Kyle MacMillan: 303-954-1675 or email@example.com
"mark sink photographs 1975-2010: encounters with the past."
Photography. Byers-Evans House Gallery, 1310 Bannock St. On view are nearly 50 black-and-white and color images spanning the noted Denver photographer's 35-year career and highlighting the diverse techniques and approaches with which he has worked. Through Oct. 31. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Free. 303-620-4933 or historycolorado.org/be.
mark sink gallery talk.
11 a.m. Saturday. Free.
wet-plate collodion photography demonstration with sink and kristen hatgi.