Among the paintings at Rule showcasing Chisman's signature blue is "Cardinal Points," an oil on linen. Blue and white shapes that combine organic and geometric forms are set hard on the painting's surface. Falling away behind these shapes is a creamy indefinite ground with smears of ochre. In this way, Chisman has set up the inherent tension of flatness versus depth, an issue the artist frequently grapples with. And the suggestion of forms at the painting's margins hints that the painting continues on beyond the stretcher-bars--at least in the artist's imagination.

Similar in approach is "Palabra," an oil on canvas. On the left side of the canvas is a heavy vertical blue line, while on the upper right Chisman has included two gestural shapes, likewise in blue, which are roughly triangular. The majority of the painting's surface is made up of a white field that reveals drawings that have been obscured by having been painted over in white. The title "Palabra" is Spanish for "word," in this case a reference to the hard-to-see letter Z, which has been rendered in white on white.

That tendency to paint out parts of his compositions is a typical feature of Chisman's paintings. This is the product of both Chisman's instinctual, automatist method and his interest in the mystical nature of painting; when an element is painted out, after all, the ghosts of the former elements remain on the surface. In "Remembrance," a magisterial oil-on-canvas diptych, Chisman has almost entirely painted over the large black linear forms with red. The generous use of blood red and funereal black and the title imply that "Remembrance" is dedicated to someone who's died.

One of the strongest paintings in the show is the only one that doesn't feature the layering of different levels of paint. In "Solo a Dos Voces," a striking oil and wax on linen inspired by an Octavio Paz poem of the same name, there's only a single surface--mostly the bare linen itself. Predominated by the beige hue of the linen, it also includes black, brown and white--colors Chisman says are meant to evoke "darkness, sadness, the winter." Translating Paz's poetry into paint was, Chisman says, "a beautiful, magic thing that just happened."

It may seem to have been a safe choice for gallery director Rule to have selected Chisman for her first exhibit on Broadway. But let's not forget that the Denver Art Museum's recent unveiling of abtract expressionist works by Robert Motherwell upped the ante by making comparisons between the two shows inevitable. Chisman does not suffer from the comparison--and, in fact, it would have been an inspired move on DAM's part if Chisman's show, instead of being a mile away from the Motherwells, were a room away in the Close Range Gallery. You know: a pioneer of abstract expressionism paired with a current artist who continues the tradition. And after all, Close Range is available, being essentially empty now that the Edward Ruscha exhibit is in place.

But then again, I told you Robin Rule was lucky.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help