Grooving to the Oldies

Fascinating shows feature riffs on the golden age of modernism.

Very different in style, though no less '60s-influenced, are the Necco-wafer-colored acrylics that make up Amy Sloan Kirchoff: Glimpses of the Continuum, a meditative exhibit installed in the center space at Carson-Masuoka. Compared to the work that Kirchoff exhibited last season, these new paintings mark a clear and major change. Compositions have virtually disappeared in favor of all-over color that suggest monochromes. However, under closer inspection, they are actually polychromes in layers of scribbled paint. All of these Kirchoffs are marvelous, but the biggest ones -- like "Ice Cream Sea," which literally froze me in my tracks -- are the best.

The last of the three shows at Carson-Masuoka is Bob Koons: Nearness of Distance, which is installed in the back conference room. Koons, who lives outside Boulder, does landscape abstractions that have a pop-art quality, though not in the same way as McKenzie's. Koons also plays with art history, tipping us off in his titles, such as "Freidrich...Fake!" I gather this is a parody of a painting by Casper David Freidrich, a nineteenth-century German romantic artist. In the painting, Koons reduces the landscape to a series of vague and blurry forms painted in toned-up, loosely naturalistic shades. Other Koons paintings refer to different nineteenth-century artists including Constable and Bierstadt. "I think he's one of the most exciting young painters around," says Mark Masuoka, the gallery's director and organizer of all three exhibits. "We plan to do a major show of his work in the near future." Hey, I'm already convinced by this small one, which I highly recommend.

The Carson-Masuoka exhibits provide three different approaches to contemporary painting that references classic modernism, and that theme carries across the street to Raw, a group show at the Space Gallery in the Goog Design Center.

"Freidrich...Fake!" by Bob Koons, acrylic painting.
"Freidrich...Fake!" by Bob Koons, acrylic painting.
"Untitled," by Rand, ceramic and aluminum wall sculpture.
"Untitled," by Rand, ceramic and aluminum wall sculpture.


Through February 21
Myhren Gallery, 2121 East Asbury Avenue

Sarah McKenzie, Amy Kirchoff and Bob Koons
Through February 28
Carson-Masuoka Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive

Through February 5
Space Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive

Space, which opened downtown on Larimer Street just under two years ago, recently relocated to the ever-more-burgeoning Santa Fe arts district.

Young painter Michael Burnett, who hails from Scotland, runs the gallery and describes it as being partly an "extension" of his studio. No surprise, then, that the current show includes his recent work along with that of a group of other young artists. Burnett's style recalls mid-twentieth-century abstract expressionism, both in his huge, slashing brushstrokes that build gigantic abstract forms, and in his use of the natural properties of oil and resin.

I'd admired Burnett's style when I saw one of his paintings at Studio Aiello some months ago, but, to be honest, the reason I came into the new Space was to check out the elegant and well-made wall sculptures by Rand, an artist who eccentrically goes by his last name only. The sculptures sport forms made from altered wheel-turned ceramic vessels that have been mounted on aluminum plates. Several, including "Untitled," have bone-like appendages fired to a buff color. Rand's manipulated forms are made to a very high standard, and, amazingly, the rich surface effects he produces are the results of a glaze-less wood firing.

As I viewed his pieces, I was thinking he must have been influenced by Paul Soldner, one of the world's greatest ceramic artists who has been living part-time in Colorado since the 1960s. So when I ran into Rand at Space, I asked him how he'd come up with these expressionist abstractions in clay.

"When I was a kid, I was in workshops with Soldner," he said. Although Rand had other mentors when he studied at universities in this country and in Australia, Soldner's inspiration is still easy to see.

McKenzie, Kirchoff, Koons, Burnett and Rand are all young artists, yet all of them are responding to modern art that's older than they are -- the kind of art we expect from established artists like Richert and Sperber. Some may be troubled by this trend among twenty- and thirty-something artists, but I'm not. After all, as the art scene reveals every week, there are a lot worse things in this world than good old modernism.

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