A strong show of Frank Sampson's work christens the new Sandra Phillips Gallery
In 2003, Sandra Phillips opened her namesake gallery in a funky former hair salon on Santa Fe Drive. One unfortunate aspect of the space was a spiral staircase that created a dangerous obstacle: I came dangerously close to banging my head against it many times. But despite such physical shortcomings, the gallery flourished because of the high quality of art on view, mostly by established talents from the local scene.
Phillips closed that location this past summer; last month, she moved into a much nicer ground-floor space in a new loft building in the Golden Triangle, right around the corner from Z Art Department. Originally planned for a restaurant, the space has "more doors than Macy's," Phillips says with a laugh.
For the inaugural show, Phillips is presenting Frank Sampson: New Paintings, showcasing recent work by Colorado's dean of contemporary realism. Sampson was born in 1928 in North Dakota and studied art with the legendary Mauricio Lasansky at the University of Iowa before joining the painting faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1961, where he remained until his retirement in 1990. Though this era was dominated by abstraction, Sampson was interested — and still is — in representational imagery, with his idiosyncratic style conveying a mysterious and magical world that springs from his imagination. Some paintings include the human figure, like "Leap Frog" (pictured), while others are populated by animals. The narratives are enigmatic and not meant to be understood.
Among Sampson's many strengths are his astounding technical skills, which allow him to assemble a palette of dark tones — browns, in particular — and use them to carry out details so crisply that the results never look muddy, which is a constant risk with these sorts of colors.
The show has been a tremendous sales success and helped get the word out about Phillips's new location (420 West 12th Avenue, 303-573-5969, www.thesandraphillipsgallery.com); it runs through December 15.
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