Oil Wells

Jeffrey Keith unveils his latest abstracts at the Rule Gallery.

And personal landscapes, since they are a record of Keith's recovery from a serious car accident in the fall of 1999. "I had substantial injuries, including a brain hemorrhage. At first the doctors thought I wouldn't come back mentally, it was that bad," he says. During his long recovery, painting was the only thing that held him together. "It was a horrible year -- I was constantly forgetting things. But I went to my studio every day. At first I couldn't work, but slowly I started clawing my way back."

The neo-color-field paintings from the "Twelve Seasons" series, one of two groups of paintings in the Rule show, are about living through the accident. "They are informed with seasonal ideas; they're about being alive at different times of the year."

"February, 2001," hung opposite Rule's front door, is a large square covered by thick swatches of paint applied with some kind of knife-like tool. The composition is a mass of overlapping soft-edged rectangles in various shades of blue and black. It bears a stylistic relationship to the work of Hans Hoffmann and a conceptual one to that of Clyfford Still. Although it isn't a monochrome in the strict sense, it is essentially monochromatic, as are all the other paintings in the show.

"October, 2000," oil on canvas.
"October, 2000," oil on canvas.
"Argent/Amarillo, 2000," oil on canvas.
"Argent/Amarillo, 2000," oil on canvas.

Details

Through March 10, 303-777-9473
Rule Modern and Contemporary Gallery, 111 Broadway

Adjacent to "February, 2001" is "April, 2000," which is simpler in composition but still contains overlapping rectangles. And although it is one of the few small pieces in the series, the formal elements are much larger than those in "February, 2001."

In the main room, the atmosphere becomes dignified yet joyous. Each canvas is done in a color associated with the time of year suggested by the month in each title. "August, 2000" is in several shades of sunny yellow; "October, 2000" is a mosaic of rich hot reds; "May, 2000" is marked by smears of silvery green. The rhythm created by these colored canvases placed next to each other works beautifully. And instead of hanging them in month order, director Rule has arranged them to maximize their visual effects. Thus they function together as a total environment, almost in the manner of an installation.

That feeling isn't broken by the fact that a half-dozen paintings on Mylar from another of Keith's series, "Heaven and Earth," have also been included. Like the "Twelve Seasons" paintings, these are color-field monochromes, but instead of the rainbow of colors that he employed in that series, Keith uses only black, silver and red in "Heaven and Earth."

The black paintings have been done with roofing tar mixed with black oil pigments to darken it. The silver is aluminum roofing paint. Only the red panels use traditional oil paint. "As an art teacher, I'm always looking for non-art materials to use, like the tar and the roofing paint," says Keith. By doing so Keith opens up the possibilities of his palette.

There's one painting in the show that seems to straddle the two series. "Argent/Amarillo, 2000," in aluminum and oil paints on Mylar, is a vertical weaving of flat, monochromatic pigment passages. It was created by pulling the paint across the Mylar.

This show is just the latest in a series of first-rate abstract exhibits to be displayed in Denver this season. And even in such heady company, Keith's presentation holds its own.

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