There are two interesting shows installed back-to-back at Pirate: a contemporary art oasis (3655 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058). In the handsome members' space that underwent a thorough remodel last year is Jason Appleton; in the still-as-funky-as-ever associates' space is Strange attachments.
Appleton, a longtime member of the venerable co-op, has gotten all stylish on us, and the installation is better done than any of his previous efforts at Pirate that I've seen. Leaning against the walls are enormous abstract paintings, several of which have a Picassoid quality with lyrical abstractions based on the figure filling up the large panels. Slightly different is a group that features horizontal bands stacked up across the pictures. The bands are made up of abstract shapes rising up from hard-edged lines, which give the paintings the look of pages of ancient script. In addition to the impressive paintings, there are a variety of ceramic vases that have been covered with lines and doodles. Appleton's decorated ceramics are very cool, though I do wish he'd either learn to slip-cast himself or collaborate with a potter, instead of using industrially produced blanks.
Jason Appleton and Strange attachments
3655 Navajo Street
Strange attachments features a dozen small pieces by Taos-based painter Warren Kelly. A neo-transcendentalist, Kelly has written that he's attempting to reconcile the "homeless" abstract tradition with the sites and people of New Mexico, making the paintings "regional." The paintings, such as "Cattle Drive" (right) or "Summer Hail Storm," are consistent with his style of the last few years, and so they are very good. There is one false note in the show, though, and that's "Queen of Hearts," which is apparently a failed composition that Kelly has worked to death. When I saw it, I thought about those uncomfortable passages on Antiques Roadshow where some poor soul is outed for buying a dubious pre-Columbian piece or an ersatz Tiffany lamp. Kelly should have left this dog in the studio -- with its front surface facing the wall.
Both Jason Appleton and Strange attachments run through this Sunday, August 6, at Pirate.