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Contemporary representational art is on tap at both Robischon and Havu.

Just beyond the New York pieces is a section displaying similar views of Denver. Interestingly, most of these paintings were done a few years before the New York ones. They're all good, but "City Park, Late Sun," from 1996, is a real standout because of its panoramic quality. Duesberry apparently is still interested in these cityscapes, because "Lower Downtown" was completed only a few months ago.

The rest of the exhibit is made up of more landscapes, with settings in New Mexico, New York, Maine, Montana and Italy. These far-flung locations make seeing A Brief Survey of Place at Robischon something like taking a vacation (or several of them), which strikes me as the perfect thing to do in August.


"City Park, Late Sun," by Joellyn Duesberry, oil on 
canvas.
"City Park, Late Sun," by Joellyn Duesberry, oil on canvas.
"Where the Sea Used to Be," by Elizabeth Elting, oil on 
canvas.
"Where the Sea Used to Be," by Elizabeth Elting, oil on canvas.

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Through August 28, Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788

Elizabeth Elting, Jean Gumpper, Betsy Margolius, Ron Trujillo
Through September 3, William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360

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The group show at the William Havu Gallery -- Elizabeth Elting, Jean Gumpper, Betsy Margolius, Ron Trujillo -- is the ideal companion to the Joellyn Duesberry show at Robischon, because it, too, is about contemporary representational painting based on the natural world. All four artists live in Colorado, and all of them have long exhibition records.

The exhibit has been installed as a quartet of solos, with each artist given a separate section of the gallery. Elting's paintings are in the entry space, Gumpper's prints take up the center, Margolius's prints are on the mezzanine, and Trujillo's paintings are displayed in the window and under the mezzanine.

Elting is a Boulder artist who's been exhibiting her work since the mid-1970s, but she's mostly shown in her home town and not Denver, which is why her name will be unfamiliar to many. The Elting pieces at Havu are Western landscapes, but there are a couple of twists. First, the paintings depict aerial views, as though the scenes were being glimpsed from a low-flying plane. Second, they do not record bucolic scenes, but focus on those that reveal the devastation of development, as in "Eye of the Storm," an oil on canvas of a scratched patch of earth, a highway and a lineup of heavy equipment set to do even more damage. In "Where the Sea Used to Be," the topic is sprawl, with the scene being a circle of brand-new houses encroaching on the edge of the plains.

Gumpper lives in Cascade, on Ute Pass west of Manitou Springs. Her specialty is woodcuts of natural scenes, and in the Havu show, her subject is fallen leaves in the water. In a way, the prints appear to be all-over abstractions, since the leaves and trees are simplified into little blobs and dashes, which Gumpper arrays almost evenly across the picture plane. These prints have a quiet dignity and are very beautiful.

Margolius was a household name in Denver art circles a decade or so ago, but she's exhibited locally only rarely since then, and many viewers will have never heard of her. Most of her pieces in the Havu show are monotypes, but she also included one painting on paper. She divided the composition into a series of rectangular shapes, each with a little image in it. The images are of natural things, including leaves and flowers, but they are not meant to be grouped together into a single, coherent image.

Trujillo, who lives in Denver, specializes in printmaking, which he studied at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he received his BFA and MFA in the field. Plus, for several years he worked with the nationally renowned printmaker Shark's Inc., then in Boulder and now in Lyons. Despite all of this training and experience in printmaking, he's showing paintings at Havu. Also different for Trujillo is his style, which is notably looser and more abstract than what he's been known for over the years. Trujillo formerly rendered his subjects with photographic accuracy, but in these new pieces, outlines are smeared and the canvas is divided into separate hard-edged color fields, which is not very realistic. Trujillo has written that the change in mood from fanatical to laid-back has to do with the birth of his young son, Eric, whom he cares for in his studio. I guess it's hard to be too neat with a baby around.

The group show at Havu and the Duesberry solo at Robischon both go a long way in proving that, as crazy as it seems, art based on nature still has some relevance in contemporary art. It may not be cutting-edge, but for a number of reasons, a lot of people still like it anyway.

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