Enchantment Land

While Barbero's landscapes have a sense of the three-dimensionality of space, the "Puertas" are flat, their doors shut and lying hard against the walls. The colors are applied evenly, with no mottling to suggest shadows. In "Puertas II," two evenly spaced doors, one purple, one red, alternately stand out and recede against the two-tone red field of the background wall.

The "Puertas" seemingly represent a transitional phase for Barbero, one that the artist has not fully mastered. But not to worry. As gallery director Hughes points out, the transplanted New Mexican's many avid followers "will not let him give up the landscape."

Contemporary landscapes are also the subject of a single-artist show at CSK Gallery. Kate Leonard: Land Forms displays expressionist and conventionalized landscapes from the Colorado Springs painter's "Land Forms" series. Like the Barbero paintings and monotypes at Inkfish, Leonard's pieces are small in size. But there the similarities end. Instead of dazzling colors, Leonard prefers murky shades. And instead of hard-edged lines, she keeps the margins between her forms blurry.

Leonard is only a few years out of school at Iowa's Grinnell College and the University of Nebraska. But she has already stacked up some considerable credentials. Even during her school days, her work was collected by several small Midwestern museums, and immediately upon graduation, she was offered a job as assistant professor of art at Colorado College. The twenty-something painter and printmaker's latest triumph: a 1997 MacArthur Fellowship.

At CSK, where Leonard last year conducted workshops in the gallery's graphic atelier, the artist is represented by oil paintings in dark colors. (A variety of Leonard's prints are available for viewing in CSK's back room.) The paintings ostensibly depict the land and sky, but Leonard has pointedly blurred the forms; one smudgy stroke leads to the next in the manner of abstract expressionism. The results are indistinct and dimly glimpsed landscapes that have an almost dreamlike feel.

There's a surrealist flavor to Leonard's dusky views, but in the end she remains a rightful heir to the nineteenth-century academic landscape tradition. Indeed, her work falls easily within the traditional-realist camp that's been all the rage during the last few years. There is, however, a quirkiness to these "Land Forms"--absolutely nothing seems to be happening in them, and we can't make out any of the details. Like Barbero's, Leonard's paintings and prints are hybrids of old-fashioned landscapes and newfangled abstracts. It's a mixed marriage, but a happy one.

David Barbero: Landscapes and Puertas, through February 28 at Inkfish Gallery, 116 South Broadway, 715-9528.

Kate Leonard: Land Forms, through March 9 at CSK Gallery, 1637 Wazee Street, 436-9236.

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