Luminous Flux is an odd pairing, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Fall is a busy time of year in the art world, and it's hard to believe how quickly the weather and the local exhibits are changing. In fact, this season's fall openers are rapidly heading to their appointed closings. With that in mind, I'm catching up and recommending two shows that close soon.

The William Havu Gallery opened the season with Luminous Flux, a duet pairing seventy-year-old New Mexico legend Sam Scott with Matthias Düwel, a German-born artist living in Arizona. The combination is a little jarring, because each works in his own distinctive style. And in terms of palette, painterly technique and draftsmanship, Scott's paintings are antithetical to Düwel's. This problem is mitigated by the good-looking installation, however, in which the Scotts are hung apart from the Düwels, allowing each half of Luminous Flux to function separately.

The front galleries are devoted to Scott's idiosyncratic meditations on the landscape. At first glance, his style has an affinity with the abstract expressionists — he was a student of Clyfford Still's and Philip Guston's in the 1960s — but Scott, like Guston, has pushed out of abstract expressionism. His paintings have representational content underneath the smears, runs, drips and blobs. Not that the viewer can necessarily figure out what, specifically, he is showing, but it's clear that he is depicting something, and that something is a form found in the natural environment.

"Desert Spirits," by Sam Scott, oil on linen.
"Desert Spirits," by Sam Scott, oil on linen.
"Untitled (Drip #4)," by Wendi Harford, latex on canvas.
"Untitled (Drip #4)," by Wendi Harford, latex on canvas.

Details

Through October 30, William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, www.williamhavugallery.com.Through October 30, Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, www.robischongallery.com.

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With the exception of a short stint in Arizona, Scott has lived in Santa Fe since 1969. Santa Fe and nearby Taos have a long tradition of abstraction, and Scott's style fit right in when he got there, so much so that he's now a major player in that heritage. And despite his age, nearly all the paintings at Havu are very recent — some were done just for this show. This would be an amazing feat for any artist, as several are large, complicated works.

A painting such as "October Mountain" is pure Scott. In it, a vague animal shape takes up most of the middle, with elements that reference plants enveloping it. The colors are predominantly browns, yellows and greens offset by bits of turquoise and orange. The forms have an awkward balance, and the paint has been handled expressively, with lots of brush marks and other evidence of the pigment's having been manipulated. "The Shining Place" and "Desert Spirits," two smaller paintings installed in the space below the atrium, are similar in palette and technique. These are Scott's expressive takes on the desert. What they lack in size, they make up for in charisma.

The other half of Luminous Flux is Düwel, whose work seems to fit the show title more than Scott's. The monumental drawings and the range of paintings, from easel-sized to enormous, have a lot of luminosity, and they do seem to be in a state of flux. While his compositions seem at first to be all-over abstractions, they are actually filled with meticulously rendered representational imagery including houses and trailers. These elements are part of larger groups of shapes that fill the picture plane from edge to edge. Taken together, all of the various forms seem to be caught mid-swirl, what gallery director Bill Havu describes as "tornadic."

The impressive drawings, which represent a tremendous effort on Düwel's part, are in black and white, but the paintings sport unbelievably toned-up colors, the kind you might see at an amusement park. These tones are luxurious and juicy, and he ably juggles juxtapositions of reds, blues, oranges, purples, greens, and on and on.

Scott and Düwel make an odd couple, but as I implied, the two different parts of Luminous Flux are greater than the whole, and both are worth checking out.

And that's definitely the same advice I have for Expansion, at Robischon Gallery. The standard approach for fall openers is to present solos, or, at best, duets or trios. This year, Robischon broke with that tradition for a wide-ranging group show that embraces a variety of themes as it winds its way through the greatly expanded venue. As many know, Robischon has taken over the space next door from the Center for Visual Art, which decamped for Santa Fe Drive in June. The passageway between Robischon and the former CVA has been open for a while, but gallery director Jim Robischon says this exhibit marks the formal inauguration of the conjoined spaces. So that's the prosaic meaning behind the title. But as always at this gallery, the meaning goes beyond the surface — in this case, to a poetic interpretation of the word "expansion," which the show attempts to fulfill in a number of ways.

As the viewer walks through, it's apparent that certain kinds of work are clustered and seem to come to a visual crescendo before dissipating. It's a pattern that repeats. A clear theme that starts the show are works that are either non-objective abstracts or are in some way related to minimalism, like neo-minimalism or post-minimalism. These kinds of things fill the front galleries, the middle galleries and a couple of galleries in the new space, thus leading viewers to that recently opened addition.

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