Flower Power

Blossoms provide the inspiration for contemporary work at Robischon and Sandy Carson.

Bumiller is obviously experimenting. Some of the new pieces have elements related to the earlier style, while others are further afield from her traditional approach. In "Full Moon," there are a couple of panels with dots and a couple with lines -- the type of thing she's done for years -- along with three paintings that have the new flowers on them. At the top left, Bumiller has placed a panel covered in a sea-foam green circle, a tentative and subtle version of a hex sign.

In "Codicil," the changes are more obvious, with the hex sign fully fleshed out. Its rigid, ordered forms and bright colors are somewhat jarring in comparison to the misty lines and smudges of the other parts of the painting. "Plethora" pushes the floral elements to the forefront, with almost every panel covered in silhouettes of flowers, twigs or leaves.

These recent offerings are very viewer-friendly and easy for even the uninitiated to like, and yet, at the same time, they aren't traditional flower pictures at all.

"Plethora," by Trine Bumiller, oil on canvas.
"Plethora," by Trine Bumiller, oil on canvas.
"Conservatory Scatter V," by Robert Kushner, paint 
with glitter and gold leaf on canvas.
"Conservatory Scatter V," by Robert Kushner, paint with glitter and gold leaf on canvas.

Details

TRINE BUMILLER, JUDY PFAFF and ANA MARIA HERNANDO
Through February 18, Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788

Robert Kushner: WINTER BOUQUETS
Through February 17, Sandy Carson Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585

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Unconventional flower pictures are also what ANA MARIA HERNANDO is all about. This show is hung in the Viewing Room in the back. Hernando, who lives in Boulder, is originally from Buenos Aires, and there's a definite Latin American flavor to her work, especially in her use of cut paper. Hernando uses paper that's been pre-printed in floral patterns for embroidering tablecloths. She cuts and slices the papers in ways that completely ignore the guides and then places painted renditions of giant flowers on top, which are done with bold, slashing brush stokes. The use of the tablecloth patterns was not accidental: Hernando explores the role of women in her work, and the tablecloth is an ideal metaphor.

JUDY PFAFF, TRINE BUMILLER and ANA MARIA HERNANDO flow together seamlessly. Putting these particular artists together, as Robischon did, is a thoroughly inspired idea. They function not only as three separate solos but also as one big impressive theme outing, with the work of each subtly melting into the others as viewers proceed through the gallery.


Robert Kushner: WINTER BOUQUETS at Sandy Carson on Santa Fe Drive could well have been installed with the shows at Robischon, because Kushner, like the artists showing there, also uses depictions of flowers as key components in his pieces.

Kushner, who was born in California in 1949, began exhibiting on the East and West coasts in the 1970s and is now a nationally known artist with work in many important collections, including London's Tate Gallery and the Whitney Museum in New York.

The paintings at Sandy Carson are odd in any number of ways, none more so than the fact that they seem to be completely about the creation of luxurious surfaces and could be called "decorative." As bad as that might sound, when you look at the fabulous effects Kushner achieves with paint, metal leaf and glitter, it's hard to knock him for being shallow.

There's clearly a Japanese quality to Kushner's paintings. Some look like panels from screens, particularly "Conservatory Scatter I: Doors," a diptych -- in oil, acrylic, glitter, gold and silver leaf, and mica -- that was done on a pair of antique Japanese sliding doors. Kushner painted four vertical bars filling the entire background of the doors. Scattered from bottom right to top left are blossoms, some outlined in glitter.

Another piece from the same series is "Conservatory Scatter V," which is similar, though painted on the more conventional foundation of stretched canvas. The vertical bars of blue, umber, black and gold are arranged in a complicated rhythm; on top Kushner rendered red peonies and green boughs and leaves, a few of which are accented with glitter.

The use of glitter in several of these paintings is unexpected, since it's a material that's more often associated with grade-school art projects than contemporary art. But traditional Japanese artists sometimes used shavings of colored minerals -- which look just like glitter -- for their screen panels. I'd bet that's where Kushner got the idea.

Robert Kushner: WINTER BOUQUETS at Sandy Carson is a very unusual show, and the paintings are very quirky both technically and aesthetically. But somehow this extremely weird solo worked perfectly for me, especially as the ideal chaser to the thematically interconnected trio at Robischon.

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