Opposites attract at Michael Burnett's Space Gallery

There's no question that Santa Fe Drive is the art district in Denver, and yet it's also true that most of the galleries along the row leave something to be desired. To make matters worse, in the last year or so, the street essentially lost two of its flagships: Gallery T went online, and van Straaten went to appointment-only. That means that Michael Burnett's Space Gallery (765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, www.spacegallery.org), which was always good, has risen in the ranks to become one of the top spots on the street.

It's not irrelevant to this success that Space is enormous, being made up of several showrooms. There are group exhibits in some of them right now, but it's the two solos currently on view that caught my attention. In the main gallery is Sarah Fox, an exhibit that's dedicated to a selection of marvelous neo-modern abstracts. In the enormous double-height space at the back is William Stoehr, a show made up of monumental portraits of women that combine contemporary realism and abstract expressionism.

Fox is creating work in a style that's part of a national trend in which artists in all mediums have rediscovered the standards of modernism and updated them to create credibly contemporary work. Fox uses simple shapes like circles and rectangles and assembles these forms across the picture plane in an instinctual way, as exemplified by a tiny untitled acrylic on canvas (detail pictured). The compositions even wrap around the sides of the paintings, suggesting that she works on unstretched canvas and stretches them later — but she doesn't.

The diversity of the palette and the informality of the Fox paintings are almost the opposite of Stoehr's powerful portraits, with their limited colors and straightforward presentation. What Stoehr has done is to create gigantic close-ups of women's faces carried out in neutral shades, then, on top, he puts bold slashes of bright red paint over parts of the canvases. Walking into the space, you might stop short; the paintings are that shocking to look at.

Both shows run through July 31 at Space.

 
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