Above the Fray

Stockman's sublime selection of large canvases is supplemented in the Rule exhibit by a group of closely associated miniatures on paper. These tiny, intimately scaled acrylic-on-paper paintings feature nudes in the landscape. There is also an artist book that includes one of the small paintings in the show, "Tusk," along with several other related pieces. The book, appropriately titled "Miniatures," features an essay by local arts advocate Simon Zalkind and has been hand-bound by Dancing Horse Studio's Nancy Missbach.

Little paintings also fill Don Carleno: Space Art over at Pirate. Like Stockman, Carleno looks to the great landscape tradition while putting a thoroughly contemporary spin on it. In the awkward, two-level Pirate Alley, Carleno is represented by many views of outer space and of alien moons and planets.

Carleno does not indicate on the identification labels which mediums he's working in. His pieces look like highly varnished oil paintings on small pieces of stiffened, unstretched canvas, but they may be acrylics. It would have been nice for Carleno to have let us know what he was using.

The best of these paintings capture constellations. A standout is "Green Nebula," in which a green and pink mass floats in a black ground covered with small white dots. "Supernova" takes a similar approach, with greens, reds and blues suspended in a white-dotted black abyss. Paintings such as "Green Nebula" and "Supernova" appear at first to be abstractions, but they're actually representational and may even have been inspired by the photographic illustrations in astronomy books. This tension between abstraction and representation recalls the markedly similar outer-space paintings of the 1960s and '70s done by the late Denver modernist Vance Kirkland.

Other Carleno paintings join views of space with the terrain of distant planets. In "Moon With Gas Giant," a terra cotta-red mountain is surrounded by a huge, striped green sphere. A similar view is seen in "Red Moon With Galaxy," in which another red mountain sits under a speckled black sky.

Stockman and Carleno are part of a small army of artists around the world attempting to infuse new life into the old landscape form. Some say these painters have ruined the landscape. But what they've really done is bring this antique form--kicking and screaming--into the 1990s.

William Stockman: The Phenomenology of Birds, through June 30 at Rule Modern and Contemporary Gallery, 111 Broadway, 777-9473.

Don Carleno: Space Art, through June 15 at Pirate: A Contemporary Art Oasis, 3659 Navajo Street, 458-6058.

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