The commercial strip that lines Tennyson Street in northwest Denver has changed a lot over the last few years. Whereas once it was a collection of thrift shops and laundromats, it is now home to loft buildings, coffee shops and specialty stores. In the last category are Metro Frame Works and the adjacent gallery 44T Artspace (4410 Tennyson Street, 303-433-1073). The two businesses are connected, and both are owned and operated by Melanie Lunsford.
44T occupies a good-looking storefront that faces the corner of 44th Avenue and Tennyson Street -- hence the science-fiction-style name of the place. The floor, a retro design, is eye-catching; it could have been a disaster in a gallery where patrons are meant to look at the walls, but somehow it works here. Ceiling-hung movable panels are used to subdivide the space. Though relatively small, there's just enough room to present a tidy solo, like the current attraction, Wendi Harford, a show dominated by abstract-expressionist paintings by the longtime Denver artist.
Harford was born in New York City, and she attended the School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design before coming to our area to continue her art studies at the University of Denver. She has a spotty exhibition record locally, so the show at 44T is an unusual chance to see her work in depth.
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The show is uneven, and some of the paintings don't work at all, especially the wrongheaded attempts at geometric abstraction. But when Harford is at her best, as in "redoverride" (above) a latex, acrylic and graphite on canvas, she's very good, indeed. The gorgeous surfaces of the painting are a lively combination of thick smears of paint and thin runny washes. There are letters and numbers done in slashing paint and with stencils, and there are words written in pencil. The huge painting is a riot of color: vibrant reds, ethereal blues, orange-y yellows and white. But "redoverride" isn't the only standout in the show; there are several others just as good.
Wendi Harford at 44T Artspace closes on June 30.