By Show and Tell
By Bree Davies
By Bree Davies
By Cory Casciato
By Emilie Johnson
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davis
By Josiah M. Hesse
To the right of the Neris is a tight exhibit featuring more than a dozen small pieces on paper by Denver's own Dale Chisman, who died in 2008. When he passed away, Chisman was generally considered to be among the finest artists to have ever worked in Colorado. He provided a link between the first generation of abstractionists in Colorado and the current crop. Although Chisman lived in New York for a time, earning some measure of fame, he returned to Colorado in the 1980s and became an arts advocate, helping to create MCA Denver in the 1990s.
At Robischon, Chisman is represented by paintings on paper that are both related to his better-known paintings on canvas and yet clearly different. Chisman allowed the medium to determine his approach, and in that way exploited properties that were unique to each. Although it is a more subtle distinction than Neri's segue from sculpture to drawing, Chisman's work on paper required a different set of skills than his works on canvas — and he was unquestionably adept at both. In these exquisitely detailed paper works, there's a delicacy of line and form that would be just about impossible to pull off in the brawnier arena of paint on canvas. Some are clearly preparatory painted sketches meant to be realized in painting. But most are spontaneous gestures run off quickly as Chisman apparently explored and experimented with form and line.
Another artist who was equally adept with canvas and paper was Robert Motherwell, a giant in the abstract-expressionist movement. As a result of this preeminence and the high quality of his signature work, AB-EX reaches its climax in the large back space, where more than a dozen Motherwell prints are on display. Before the opening of the Still Museum, Motherwell was the abstract expressionist best represented in Denver, with the Denver Art Museum having acquired an in-depth collection surveying his career (now on view on level 3 of the Hamilton in another salute to the opening of the CSM).
At Robischon, there are examples of the two poles of Motherwell's aesthetic, which he worked on simultaneously. There are the slashing strokes and bars associated with action painting and drawing, as in "Elegy Study I," and there are the ones anchored by straight — or mostly straight — lines, which represent his more minimal approach, as in "Untitled (Open)." Motherwell worked with a very simple vocabulary of forms, and his palette was typically reduced to just a few bold shades. In "Elegy Study I," which is part of Motherwell's most famous series of pieces, meant to commemorate the Spanish Republic just as Picasso's "Guernica" does, the artist has limited the palette to black and white applied to a sandpaper-colored ground. In "Untitled (Open)," it's just black and red standing out against the bright white of the blank paper.
I went to AB-EX at Robischon with a friend, who said to me that he thought it was the best show he'd ever seen in a commercial gallery. I wouldn't go that far, but I would say it's one of them.
Slide show: Images from AB-EX: Positions and Dispositions