Artbeat

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

Bobbi Walker forces visitors to her gallery, Walker Fine Art (300 West 11th Avenue, 303-355-8955), to suspend their aesthetic sensibilities. At issue is the hideous high-rise -- the Prado -- in which the gallery is located. Loving buildings as I do, it took me a long time to build up the courage to enter such a structure, but I'm glad I finally did, because the rewards inside Walker Fine Art are great. All in all, I'd say it was well worth the anguished moments spent going from my car to the front door.

The current attraction at Walker is Alchemy, a marvelous duet that pairs emerging Colorado painter Ben Strawn with sculptor Norman Epp, an established artist who's relatively new to the area. Even though the work of the two artists occupies the same space, Alchemy functions as two solos.

Strawn, the son of notable Colorado artists Bernice and Mel Strawn, lives in Salida, as do his parents. His paintings are retro '50s, and the best of them, such as "Triptych" and "Limn Flourish," clearly demonstrate why abstract expressionism has held imaginations for more than half a century. In the right hands -- like Strawn's -- it's just so darned lyrical. Other secrets to Strawn's success are his confident brush strokes and a paint box full of strong colors.

Epp's technically and formally erudite sculptures make a wonderful companion to Strawn's paintings, even if they are different stylistically. The figural abstractions in wood, stone and metal, sometimes used in different combinations, are also retro, but Epp's source is surrealism rather than abstract expressionism. Epp is still little known around here, unjustly but understandably, because he's only been exhibiting in the region since 2000.

I know it's hard to imagine a reason to enter a tacky pile like the Prado, but if you do, you'll find something surprisingly wonderful inside. Alchemyruns through November 1 at Walker Fine Art.

 
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