44T ARTSPACE, the exhibition end of Metro Frame Works (4400 Tennyson Street, 303-433-0335), is a smart-looking miniature sales room with extensive show windows that open the place up to the street. The gallery is one of only a handful participating in this year's Denver Art Dealers Association series highlighting talent that's new to the city. The DADA-related show at 44T is simply titled Introductions and includes the work of three artists who are little known around here.
In the front section is a small group of lyrical paintings by Michael Raaum, who lives in Basalt, where he's maintained a studio for almost twenty years. Though Raaum has exhibited nationally, this is only the second time he's had a solo in Denver. Raaum's paintings, which have an early-modernist quality, are inspired by natural forms, but they are completely abstract and not representational. In "Aquatic Procession" (pictured), for example, the shapes weave in and out of one another, but they don't depict anything that could be found in the ocean -- even if they sort of look like serpents or eels. Raaum's palette, dominated by bright, sunny shades and lots of white, is also interesting.
The two other artists, Chris Colbea and Adam Ambro, are both making their Denver debuts. Colbea's paintings of heads and faces look very 1980s, and they are definitely part of a full-scale neo-expressionist revival going on now. (Would that make it neo-neo-expressionist?) In the back, Colbea's portfolio is available for viewing on request, and some of the unframed pieces reveal the artist's debt to the first expressionists from the early twentieth century. Ambro refers to an earlier decade, but in his case, it's the 1970s: His photo transfers on newspaper depicting Volkswagen Beetles look like they came right out of a time machine. I think it's really interesting that young artists such as Colbea and Ambro are digging into sources that came and went before they were born -- though I have to say I'm not at all sure why it's happening.
4400 Tennyson Street
Introductions will remain on display at 44T ARTSPACE through September 25.
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