The Show Must Go On

As the world turns ugly, the local art season gets off to a beautiful start.

The Mazal paintings are transcendental and beautiful -- which connects them to the latest craze in contemporary art, most recently displayed at the ongoing Site Santa Fe, organized by David Hickey. While Mazal was not included in Site proper, his work was on display in Santa Fe when Site opened this past summer. Will the new era that began abruptly on September 11 -- so different in so many ways from the one we were in before -- stop this growing interest in beauty right in its tracks? Will the national mood now demand message-oriented works that eschew beauty as a naive goal? Let's hope not: Beauty should never be obsolete.

At Carson-Masuoka Gallery, there was no thought of canceling FABstraction, since the show had opened on Labor Day weekend. But the gallery has certainly felt the effects of the horrible events of September 11. "At first, traffic fell off quite a bit," says Mark Masuoka, who owns the gallery with Sandy Carson. "But it's starting to pick up, and we're working on a lot of jobs we contracted for during the summer."

"One Inch Above #10," by Ricardo Mazal, oil on linen.
"One Inch Above #10," by Ricardo Mazal, oil on linen.
Detail from "Dance the Line, Blur the Rhythm," by Amy Sloan Kirchoff, acrylic on canvas.
Detail from "Dance the Line, Blur the Rhythm," by Amy Sloan Kirchoff, acrylic on canvas.


Through November 3, 303-777-9473

Through October 12
Carson-Masuoka Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive

Rule Gallery, 111 Broadway

Given the art world's interconnections, a flat season in New York will be felt elsewhere, Masuoka notes. "We're setting up at a show in Chicago," he says. "We don't know what will happen. We're committed to it, so we can't back out now, but we're not sure how it's going to go. But it's our job and we have to do it. I think art gives people something that comforts them; we've had a number of people say that coming in and seeing the show made them feel better. It's what we can do in the art world: bring comfort to people."

Masuoka laughs when I ask whether the craze for beauty -- so amply displayed in FABstraction -- will start to wane. "Maybe people will need beautiful things more than ever," he says.

If they do, they couldn't come to a better place than Carson-Masuoka, because FABstraction is filled with beautiful objects. Organized by Masuoka, the show is very much like the Colorado Biennial he presented over a year ago when he was still director at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art, both in its emphasis of beauty and in its attempt to survey a wide array of current contemporary-art approaches. "There's no ab-ex; everything is new," says Masuoka.

The show begins with a group of luscious paintings by Amy Sloan Kirchoff, a fairly recent arrival on the Denver art scene. For these pieces, beautiful jewel tones of red, blue, purple and yellow are set off by dusty pastels and neutral shades. In "Dance the Line, Blur the Rhythm," an acrylic on canvas, Kirchoff has painted loosely composed circles on top of one another, forming a dense composition. This use of circles, repeated in all of her paintings here, has a retro '60s quality, reflecting another current art craze. Despite the historic references, though, it gives the Kirchoff paintings a very contemporary feel.

Also very up-to-the-minute are two post-minimalist paintings in mixed media on paper laid on board by California artist Patsy Krebs. These stripe paintings simultaneously convey flatness and decidedly non-flat three-dimensional space -- a pair of attributes that would appear to be antithetical to each other, at least superficially, but are reconciled successfully by Krebs. Elaborate abstractions by Santa Fe's Kristy Rawson hang adjacent to Krebs's work, in the second space off the main part of the gallery. Rawson uses an intensely complicated process that includes acrylic painting, ink drawing, photocopy, acrylic transfer and applications of wax and oil to create these pieces. The resulting compositions, which form organic patterns, recall traditional fabrics -- another current contemporary painting trend, especially in the West.

That the West is developing its own contemporary ethos is seen even more clearly in Chad Colby's abstracts, which are based conceptually -- though not literally -- on landscapes. Like Kirchoff, Colby recently moved to Denver; he now teaches at Metro State. In his paintings, passages of color with hard edges define irregular shapes in pointedly non-decorative color schemes that often feature a lot of yellow.

Also Western in theme -- a relatively new trip for him -- are two spectacular, sophisticated installations by John McEnroe. One of the most insightful postmodernists working in Denver, McEnroe wants his wry observations about contemporary life to carry not just a conceptual punch, but a big visual one -- and these pieces hit the mark. "Blue Spruce" and "Red Oak" both use real logs, presumably spruce and oak, along with printed wood-grain plastic sheeting cleverly set side by side. Especially nice is the cobalt-blue-coated bough that leans against the wall in "Blue Spruce" and the ideologically similar use of a red-coated stump in "Red Oak." I've liked just about everything I've ever seen by McEnroe, who's exhibited in the area for over five years, but his work has never looked as good as it does right now in FABstraction.

Reflecting on both FABstraction and the Mazal show, I realized that Mark Masuoka was right. We do need beauty now more than ever.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help