Change and Continuity

Roland Bernier's at Fresh Art, while Havu presents Aaron Karp, Sushe Felix and others.

The Bernier show is impressive and includes more than three dozen major works. The Fresh Art space is the perfect setting for an in-depth solo, yet this is the only one that's been presented here, and, with the changes afoot, the last one ever. Make the effort to see it before it closes on June 4.


There's also a limited amount of time left to catch the current offerings at the William Havu Gallery in the Golden Triangle. Four single-artist shows fill the place; two of them, Aaron Karp and Sushe Felix, are major presentations, while the other two, Delos Van Earl and Lynn Heitler, are smaller displays.

"Objective," by Roland Bernier, acrylic on paper.
"Objective," by Roland Bernier, acrylic on paper.
"The Sun Also Rises," by Sushe Felix, acrylic and 
mixed media on canvas.
"The Sun Also Rises," by Sushe Felix, acrylic and mixed media on canvas.

Details

w.o.w. (words on wheels) w.o.p. (words on paper) Extended through June 4, Fresh Art, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-2200

Aaron Karp, Sushe Felix, Delos Van Earl, Lynn HeitlerThrough June 5, William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360

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The first show, installed in the set of spaces immediately inside Havu's front door, is Aaron Karp, which illustrates the New Mexico artist's classic style. Karp is well known to Denver audiences, as he's been exhibiting his large paintings in the top galleries in town since the 1970s.

Karp gives a unique look to his paintings through the use of masking tape. He starts creating the pattern at one end, often changing its orientation halfway across. Even if it looks as though he has heaped the paint on with a knife or spatula, Karp actually uses a conventional brush technique to get the luscious quality that he does. The varying depths of the paint are created by pulling the tape off during the process, leaving the paint that has piled up against it.

Not only is Karp's technique a contributor to his idiosyncratic style, but so, too, are his subjects: abstracted organic shapes arranged in an all-over composition. The show at Havu includes two different bodies of work. In the front are gauzy abstracts in which simple natural shapes are placed upon one another, obscured by wildly expressive brushwork and the use of light-over-dark pigments. In the space at the base of the staircase are some slightly older works, which have more complicated compositions, are more crisply detailed, and are more intensely colored. Both types are pretty cool and absolutely represent an unusual take on organic abstraction as well as on taped painting, which is typically used by hard-edged minimalists and pattern-painters, not those doing nature-based work.

The paintings in Sushe Felix do have hard edges, but this well-known Colorado artist is no minimalist or pattern painter -- nor does she use tape. Felix's work is neo-transcendental, a retro style that refers to the work of early modernists in the American West, which has long been an interest for her. Her paintings are installed in the center space and in the space under the mezzanine, and the selection includes more than a dozen of her signature acrylic-and-mixed-media-on-board paintings.

Felix's compositions are like unassembled puzzles, with an array of rectilinear, triangular and circular shapes scattered across the picture plane. These elements, some of which have been detailed with renditions of clouds or the sun, are arranged to draw the viewer's eyes to the center of the painting. The eyes are also drawn up, with Felix using lighter tones at the top and darker ones at the bottom. All of these attributes are shown off in two of the most ambitious pieces: "Crossover" and "The Sun Also Rises." Other titles, such as "Come Rain or Shine" and "Blue Rondo," refer to the names of songs from the history of jazz, one of Felix's current passions.

The Delos Van Earl show, in the display-window space, includes only a handful of this California artist's steel wall sculptures. The Van Earls are geometric in composition and in overall shape. Contrasting with that geometry are deep gouges in the steel, which Van Earl achieves with corrosive chemicals.

Upstairs is Lynn Heitler, a small group of monotype floral pictures and photo etchings by the established Denver artist, who is better known for her abstract-expressionist pieces. Heitler's works are thoroughly traditional, even down to the yellowed ground she employs that makes them look like nineteenth-century botanicals. Whatever she was thinking when she came up with the idea for this radically conservative work, she struck a chord with collectors, because they've been selling briskly.

The four shows at Havu don't really work too well together, but individually, all have something to say for themselves -- especially Aaron Karp and Sushe Felix. But remember, the clock is running out for this quartet, with less than two weeks left on their scheduled runs.

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