Frank Martinez and Michael Whiting

Plus Gallery

With the opening of the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building last year and the unveiling of the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver last month, the city's gallery owners have really stepped up to compete. The happy result has been a season crammed with first-rate offerings — something that wasn't so common around here before now.

Ivar Zeile, owner of Plus Gallery (2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927, www.plusgallery.com), is one of those who has definitely gotten into the act. In the front space at Plus is a pair of good-looking solos installed together as a single show. It's not an ideal setup, but the creations of the two artists work well together.

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On the walls is Optimiste/Pessimiste, which comprises recent abstracts by Frank Martinez and represents a major step forward for this emerging artist. Using loud colors laid out in intriguing organic shapes, Martinez harnesses drips and runs of paint to create barely controlled patterns.

The vivid colors and non-narrative character of the Martinez pieces work with the very different sculptural group by California artist Michael Whiting that makes up Walk in the Park. A constructivist known for non-objective sculptures in rectilinear shapes, Whiting has changed course here, pushing his geometric forms toward representational imagery.

What he has created is a wilderness scene composed of hard-edged takes on nature. There's a rock, a shrub, a man, a woman, a doe, a buck (pictured), a rabbit, a squirrel, a mouse and a duck all beneath a sun that hangs on the wall. As with his earlier pieces, Whiting has finished the surfaces with automotive lacquer in an array of delicious if dusty colors that he completes by scratching and scuffing up. You've really got to see it.

Finally, in the back niche is Sorry mom but Nipsey Russell..., a tiny exhibit made up of a handsome group of polyester and mixed-material paintings-cum-wall sculptures by Hunt Rettig. In them, white shapes float on a blue field, like clouds in the sky. All three exhibits run through December 7.

 
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