Abstract Concepts

The only other painting from 1997--all the rest were completed this year--is the oil on linen "Tattooed by Passion." Chisman's use of a stencil, which allows him to insert nearly identical shapes into different paintings, is apparent here. "I started using a stencil in printmaking--it's a printmaking technique--but with this series, I decided to use it in my paintings," he notes. A guitar shape and a series of squares in "Tattooed by Passion," for example, show up again in "Reflections," a 1998 oil on canvas that is otherwise markedly different.

Chisman's use of creamy colors like white and golden ocher in "Reflections" anticipates the light color schemes of the next several paintings. "White Words" is a transitional painting that links the first pieces in the series to the last. The hook is Chisman's use of the teardrop shape that appears in "Seven Notes" and again in "Game Without Rules," a heavily painted oil on linen from 1998. "White Words" also presages some of the more recent paintings in the series through its creamy white and gray palette and its use of an arching line that dominates the composition.

The oil-on-linen paintings "Stillness in Motion" and "Danzon" stand out from all the rest, with elongated dark shapes and dark squares set against a mostly white ground. Meanwhile, the final painting in the series, "GYell," is another by-product of Chisman's trip to Barcelona. In fact, it was inspired by a visit to a famous city park in the Spanish metropolis that was designed and adorned by idiosyncratic architectural genius Antonio Gaudi. The painting doesn't make direct references to Gaudi's spectacular multi-colored monuments, but their presence is felt nonetheless. Chisman has created a brownish field that ranges from burnt ocher to sepia and has placed on top of it multi-colored squares and meandering lines. In the center is a roughly drawn vertical rectangle in brown that is partly obscured by dense black scribbles.

Asked to sum up his new series, Chisman says it was all about combining drawn elements with painted flourishes. Mission accomplished.

While the Chisman show occupies the main gallery at Rule, the back room, recently named the "west gallery," is host to a small show of large paintings by Boulder abstractionist Gene Matthews. With this exhibit, which makes a handsome pairing with the Chisman show, gallery director Rule has shown how even the smallest space--the west gallery is the size of a tiny bedroom--can be used to create an intimate and intelligent statement.

Matthews is represented by a handful of first-rate acrylic paintings covered with paper from the late 1970s that sport horizontal stripes meant to suggest the landscape. Matthews, who's shown for the last forty years in the area (though not much recently), is known as a supreme master of color. In these paintings, pastel colors--especially the seemingly infinite shades of pale icy-green that Matthews is able to achieve--are made even paler by a layer of rice paper that has been laid across their surfaces.

The paintings call to mind the fact that back in the 1960s and '70s, there was a veritable movement of local artists working with variants of hard-edged geometric painting. Other practitioners included George Woodman, (whose retrospective just closed in Boulder), Bev Rosen, Clark Richert, Charles DiJulio, Richard Kollweit and David Yust. It would make a great show to bring them all together--and though such an exhibit would seem tailor-made for the new MoCA or for the DAM, don't be surprised if Robin Rule is the one who ends up doing it. With exhibits like Dale Chisman and Gene Matthews, she's already made her small gallery the rival of these much larger public institutions.

Dale Chisman: New Paintings and Gene Matthews, through June 27 at the Rule Modern and Contemporary Gallery, 111 Broadway, 777-9473.

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