Unseasonably Hot

Solos at Rule and Sandy Carson are among the top art attractions in town.

One of the most memorable features of the exhibit is its cohesiveness; all the paintings working beautifully together. If that wasn't enough, another key contributor to the show's success is the incredible palette Chisman embraces, with lots of bright colors set against one another. These colors -- fire-engine red, sunflower yellow, dazzling white and many others -- have a very contemporary, up-to-the-minute feel, as do the paintings themselves.

Dale Chisman at Rule is clearly one of the best shows of the year -- and who'd expect to see something like that in June? Well as I said, it looks like this year, you would.

"Space," by Dale Chisman, oil on canvas.
"Space," by Dale Chisman, oil on canvas.
"representing Friedrich," by Bob Koons, oil on canvas.
"representing Friedrich," by Bob Koons, oil on canvas.


Dale Chisman: New Paintings
Through June 26, Rule Gallery, 111 Broadway, 303-777-9473

Bob Koons and Quintin Gonzalez
Through June 18, Sandy Carson Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585

The Sandy Carson Gallery also has a strong late-spring program installed back to back: In the front space is Bob Koons: paintings, and in the two spaces beyond is Quintin Gonzalez: digital images. Both artists utilize computers in their creative processes, but in very different ways and to very different ends.

Koons studied at Melbourne University in Australia before he earned a BFA from St. Olaf College in Minnesota in 1992. In the late 1990s, he moved to our state, and in 2000, he received an MFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He's only been exhibiting his work in Denver for the past few years.

Doing what he's dubbed "fakescapes," Koons uses computers to digitize and then reduce seventeenth- to nineteenth-century landscape paintings. Many of the original landscapes are done in the romantic style and are thus, according to Koons's ideology, "fake," which is what obviously inspired the series title. But Koons does not present the resulting high-tech landscapes as his finished pieces; instead, he uses them as preparatory studies for works made with the traditional materials used by a landscape painter -- oil paint, brushes, and canvas.

Koons is quite adept with these tools, as he proves with his eye-popping paintings. His surfaces are deliciously smooth, and his color blending is so accomplished, I thought that he had sprayed on the paint -- but he didn't; he applied it the usual way.

The titles are taken from the artists who provided the source material, so "representing Constable 2," for example, is based on a painting by John Constable, while "representing Friedrich" is based on one by Casper David Friedrich. Constable and Friedrich are nineteenth-century romantic painters, and most early Koonses were based on that style. But more recently, he's expanded his horizons to include baroque and impressionism, as "representing Rembrandt" and "representing Monet" respectively demonstrate.

Koons has not done many Western landscapes, but "representing Bierstadt 2" might be one. The color scheme -- with its yellow shades from sunny to mustard set off by dark blue -- makes the scene look very arid, like a depiction of Arizona or New Mexico. But since Koons doesn't cite the specific painting he used, and because the digital process has abstracted the view so much, it's hard to identify the painting as a landscape, let alone where it might be. If he hasn't done any Western landscapes yet, he really should consider doing so.

Koons uses digital media, and that's surely why he's been put together with Quintin Gonzalez, who uses computers to create his portraits.

Gonzalez received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from Yale University. Since 1999, he's been an assistant professor in the department of visual arts at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Most of the Gonzalez pieces in the show are done with a LightJet printer and Fujicolor Crystal Archive Professional Paper, and they're dynamite. They look like altered photos, but they may be digitized drawings, because, as with Koons's paintings, there's little specific information available about the process other than the fact that it includes "a vocabulary of electronic" gestures. Don't look to his artist statement for any help, though. It's total art-speak, and thus as dense as pea soup.

The portrait images appear to be hallucinatory, and the subjects seem to be moving. The most memorable feature of these portraits is the toned-up colors, which sometimes verge on the iridescent, as in "Ghosts of Time," which includes three portraits assembled in a repetitive group, Warhol style.

In addition to the digital prints, Gonzalez has done a group of mixed-media pieces that combine the computer images with abstract painting. I thought these were great, and they're ridiculously cheap.

Gonzalez hasn't shown very much in town, so take advantage of this rare opportunity.

The Koons and Gonzalez exhibits at Sandy Carson will run for the next few weeks. It's going to be tough to find the time see them -- with Denver currently so uncharacteristically crowded with first-rate shows -- but do it anyway.

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