Moving On Up

A promising new gallery opens on Santa Fe.

On a pink stone base, Stiles positioned a fabricated metal sleeve that encases a carved and painted laminated wood beam. The carving resulted in a board with a delicate arching shape that evokes the bow of the title. Another arching shape, made of carved and painted wood, is attached at the base and top by found and fabricated hardware. The whole thing hangs in midair from steel cables. "P-Factor" is part of a body of work that Stiles has been doing for a couple of years, in which stone, wood and metal hardware assemblages are suspended from the ceiling.

More down-to-earth -- literally, but not figuratively -- is the multi-part wall piece by Lauri Lynnxe Murphy that is hanging opposite the Stiles. To my mind, Murphy does not fit King's young-artist category -- not because she's too old, but because she's way too established, having exhibited her work for at least the past ten years. This new piece, "Galapagos," is related to her earlier and familiar grid compositions, but it is also distinctly different.

As before, Murphy combines painting and collage with upholstery, artificial leaves and found objects, decorating many of the panels with both printed and hand-painted patterns. But in "Galapagos," the panels are of varying sizes rather than being uniform, and they've been hung in a free-form scatter pattern rather than arranged in a precise line or grid.

“P-Factor (Dr. Tom’s Bow),” by Jonathan Stiles, sculpture.
“P-Factor (Dr. Tom’s Bow),” by Jonathan Stiles, sculpture.
"Spanish Rain" and "Solaris," by Don Quade, mixed-media paintings.
"Spanish Rain" and "Solaris," by Don Quade, mixed-media paintings.

In the main part of the show, King has hung a large, neo-abstract-expressionist painting by Mark Brasuell, who, like Murphy, hardly qualifies as a neophyte. (At this point, I dismissed once and for all the idea that the show is made up exclusively of newcomers.) Brasuell's painting, "Sunset," an oil on canvas, is automatist, with gold smears laid over a field of brushy red with a little purple.

Although a variety of styles are included in the show, abstraction soon emerges as the pattern that connects just about everything, from the Andrews to the Stiles to the Murphy to the Brasuell -- even though each takes an entirely different path.

Don Quade employs yet another distinct approach to abstraction in a pair of major paintings displayed as a diptych and hung to the right of the Brasuell. The surface is divided into geometric patterns in which Quade creates individual compositions that are heavily painted in spontaneous gestures and scribbles carried out in very dark colors. Both of the paintings, "Spanish Rain" and "Solaris," are done on rigid boards. In places, Quade has inserted small, flat rectangles of metal held down by tiny brass tacks. In a witty, fool-the-eye trick, Quade also uses the tacks to outline painted rectangles, making them look like metal.

Post-minimalist Karen McClanahan employs straight lines in her painting ("Systematic Division"), too, but her style is much simpler. Where Quade daubs and manipulates the paint into a frothy mass, McClanahan applies it in flat even coats, the colors standing out sharp and hard against each other. What makes McClanahan post-minimalist is her use of figural or representational shapes reduced to their essence and combined with the straight lines of minimalism. The sinuous shapes evoke the female nude, but the artist says they're based on shadows made by architectural moldings.

Beyond the McClanahan, toward the end of the show, is an installation by Gwen Laine that incorporates photos of an arm. In this piece, one of the few in Momentum with recognizable as opposed to abstract imagery, Laine has taken scores of gelatin silver prints, mounted them in wooden frames and then hung the frames on steel rods held to the wall with brackets. The piece, "Assumption #1," fills a corner at the far end of the gallery from floor to ceiling. Laine is one of the city's best experimental photographers, and her work has been widely seen in town over the last few years.

This show ends the way I thought it started, with Andrews's "Giant's Leg" standing just beyond the Laine installation, with the windows behind it. But first or last, the bold, abstract Andrews winds up being the perfect symbol for Momentum.

Taking into account that the exhibit was put together by a committee that included King, Hyland Mather from Andenken, Michael Burnett from Space, Mark Masuoka from Carson-Masuoka and Ivar Zeile from Cordell Taylor, it's amazing how smoothly it flows. Usually, too many cooks, as you know, spoil the broth. Maybe King had more to say about it than she's admitting?

As for future offerings, she isn't saying anything about that, either, because believe it or not, there's nothing planned. We'll just have to wait and see. But one thing is already apparent: Denver has an important new contemporary-art venue -- and I'd call that something worth noting.

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