Artbeat

Brief sketches of what's happening in the Denver art scene.

The Spark Gallery (1535 Platte Street, 303-455-4435) typically hosts two shows at once, which is the ordinary practice for most co-ops. Unfortunately, more often than not, the shows are incompatible. I suppose this is the inevitable result of the vagaries of scheduling and the very heterogeneous membership at Spark. This time, however, the two solos, featuring recent paintings by longtime Spark co-op members Catherine Carilli and Sue Simon, come together like a duet. In the front space is Carilli's States of Being; in the back is Simon's Fragments.

States of Being features a selection of oil paintings that indicate a stylistic transition for Carilli. Whereas her previous work has been loosely, if obviously, based on abstracting still-life subjects like flowers (and there's one painting of this type in the show), most of the paintings here are linear organic abstractions carried out with toned-up colors. The real standout is the three-part "Suspension," which is the size of a mural. A single composition runs across all three large panels, and it's a mystery why Carilli has offered to sell each of the parts separately.

Simon's paintings are quite different. Instead of riffing off nature, as Carilli does, Simon looks to mathematics and, even if she doesn't say so, Japanese calligraphy and brush painting. The earliest of these geometric multi-part paintings, "Thinking About It," in acrylic on canvas, has vertical free-hanging flaps of canvas covered with scribbles of paint.

The most successful of the Simons is "Just an Ordinary Day" (above), a huge composition hung on the back wall. The geometric abstraction is made up of separate acrylic-on-canvas panels arranged around a small square one. The square panel is not exactly on center, and, because it doesn't quite fit, there's a visible wooden shim holding it in place. At first glance, this piece appears to be completely abstract, but there are several recognizable things hidden in the swirls of color, like a tomato wedge and a feather. These elements look like collaged photos, but they're not. The photographic accuracy of these images betrays Simon's former career as a scientific illustrator, as does the partition-function equation that runs across the top of the painting.

Both shows close this Sunday.

 
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