Mark Travis: A Memorial Exhibit at Space Gallery

The death last winter of Mark Travis, a contemporary artist who made his reputation in Denver's go-go scene of the 1980s, left a big question mark regarding a scheduled exhibit of his work. His representative, Michael Burnett of Space Gallery (765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, www.spacegallery.org), had asked Travis to create political paintings to run during the Democratic National Convention.

That show, of course, couldn't happen, since Travis hadn't even started to work on the political pieces at the time of his death. So Burnett decided to do a show based on the works in the artist's studio instead, most of which were done in the last few years. It's these paintings that make up Mark Travis: A Memorial Exhibit.

His classic work, created in the '80s and early '90s, was entirely abstract, with the best pieces being mammoth mixed-media combine-paintings that incorporated scraps of wood and metal and other objects he'd find in the alleys of his downtown neighborhood. Using staining and pouring, Travis created richly layered color fields, and in what was apparently a frenzy of activity, he'd sketch in letters, numbers and scribbles.

Travis later embraced figural abstraction, inserting nude depictions of women into the middle of his paintings; these vaporous figure studies came to completely dominate his pictures. It's this kind of work that the Space show comprises. Apparently, Travis's non-objective combines must have been sold off, because none are in the exhibit. Or, just as likely, they've been destroyed: Travis was a notorious hothead, and from time to time, he would impetuously slash, smash and trash pieces that he had gotten tired of.

Most of the newer paintings, some of which were shown at the now-defunct Studio Aiello, are untitled, such as the one that's pictured. This mixed media on canvas is typical of Travis's late work, with the standing female nude seeming to emerge from the murky all-over ground.

Mark Travis: A Memorial Exhibit runs through October 11 at Space.Michael Paglia

 
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