Fall is a busy time of year in the art world, and it's hard to believe how quickly the weather and the local exhibits are changing. In fact, this season's fall openers are rapidly heading to their appointed closings. With that in mind, I'm catching up and recommending two shows that close soon.
The William Havu Gallery opened the season with Luminous Flux, a duet pairing seventy-year-old New Mexico legend Sam Scott with Matthias Düwel, a German-born artist living in Arizona. The combination is a little jarring, because each works in his own distinctive style. And in terms of palette, painterly technique and draftsmanship, Scott's paintings are antithetical to Düwel's. This problem is mitigated by the good-looking installation, however, in which the Scotts are hung apart from the Düwels, allowing each half of Luminous Flux to function separately.
The front galleries are devoted to Scott's idiosyncratic meditations on the landscape. At first glance, his style has an affinity with the abstract expressionists — he was a student of Clyfford Still's and Philip Guston's in the 1960s — but Scott, like Guston, has pushed out of abstract expressionism. His paintings have representational content underneath the smears, runs, drips and blobs. Not that the viewer can necessarily figure out what, specifically, he is showing, but it's clear that he is depicting something, and that something is a form found in the natural environment.
With the exception of a short stint in Arizona, Scott has lived in Santa Fe since 1969. Santa Fe and nearby Taos have a long tradition of abstraction, and Scott's style fit right in when he got there, so much so that he's now a major player in that heritage. And despite his age, nearly all the paintings at Havu are very recent — some were done just for this show. This would be an amazing feat for any artist, as several are large, complicated works.
A painting such as "October Mountain" is pure Scott. In it, a vague animal shape takes up most of the middle, with elements that reference plants enveloping it. The colors are predominantly browns, yellows and greens offset by bits of turquoise and orange. The forms have an awkward balance, and the paint has been handled expressively, with lots of brush marks and other evidence of the pigment's having been manipulated. "The Shining Place" and "Desert Spirits," two smaller paintings installed in the space below the atrium, are similar in palette and technique. These are Scott's expressive takes on the desert. What they lack in size, they make up for in charisma.
The other half of Luminous Flux is Düwel, whose work seems to fit the show title more than Scott's. The monumental drawings and the range of paintings, from easel-sized to enormous, have a lot of luminosity, and they do seem to be in a state of flux. While his compositions seem at first to be all-over abstractions, they are actually filled with meticulously rendered representational imagery including houses and trailers. These elements are part of larger groups of shapes that fill the picture plane from edge to edge. Taken together, all of the various forms seem to be caught mid-swirl, what gallery director Bill Havu describes as "tornadic."
The impressive drawings, which represent a tremendous effort on Düwel's part, are in black and white, but the paintings sport unbelievably toned-up colors, the kind you might see at an amusement park. These tones are luxurious and juicy, and he ably juggles juxtapositions of reds, blues, oranges, purples, greens, and on and on.
Scott and Düwel make an odd couple, but as I implied, the two different parts of Luminous Flux are greater than the whole, and both are worth checking out.
And that's definitely the same advice I have for Expansion, at Robischon Gallery. The standard approach for fall openers is to present solos, or, at best, duets or trios. This year, Robischon broke with that tradition for a wide-ranging group show that embraces a variety of themes as it winds its way through the greatly expanded venue. As many know, Robischon has taken over the space next door from the Center for Visual Art, which decamped for Santa Fe Drive in June. The passageway between Robischon and the former CVA has been open for a while, but gallery director Jim Robischon says this exhibit marks the formal inauguration of the conjoined spaces. So that's the prosaic meaning behind the title. But as always at this gallery, the meaning goes beyond the surface — in this case, to a poetic interpretation of the word "expansion," which the show attempts to fulfill in a number of ways.
As the viewer walks through, it's apparent that certain kinds of work are clustered and seem to come to a visual crescendo before dissipating. It's a pattern that repeats. A clear theme that starts the show are works that are either non-objective abstracts or are in some way related to minimalism, like neo-minimalism or post-minimalism. These kinds of things fill the front galleries, the middle galleries and a couple of galleries in the new space, thus leading viewers to that recently opened addition.
There are some great resonances that develop here, such as the ones between the pieces by Jae Ko hanging in the window room up front and those by John McEnroe around the corner. You can't see both artists' work at the same time, but their sculptures bookend the non-objective abstract theme of Expansion. Both seem to make abstract references to biomorphic shapes — Ko with rolls of paper that have been dyed and stretched, and McEnroe with cast resin — and both carry out their pieces in monochromes. And finally, the two artists have chosen to mostly work with attenuated vertical shapes.
Other artists who have non-objective pieces on view, some with references to nature, include Linda Fleming and Jaq Chartier. Fleming is represented by "Portent," a large, pierced-metal assemblage that's floor-bound. There are two ethereal abstracts by Chartier, "Full Spectrum — Violets" and "11 Stains With 14 whites," that are plastic panels covered with repeated shapes in stain and spray paint. They are approximately the same, though not exactly.
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Another nice resonance occurs with the Gene Davis prints from his "Black Watch" series and the Wendi Harford painting "Untitled (Drip #4)." The Davis prints are covered with crisp vertical stripes of ink, with tight and chaste margins. Harford also employs vertical stripes, but she makes hers by dripping paint down the front of the canvas so that the margins between the colors are rough and free-flowing.
An additional theme that appears, this one toward the end of the show, is conceptual realism, with photo-realist pieces by Jerry Kunkel being among the standouts. Kunkel, like Ko and McEnroe, is seen in some depth, with more than half a dozen of his meticulously detailed pictures that recall a lost past. Also delving into conceptual realism is Jack Balas, who continues his exploration of handsome young men in mixed-media paintings.
Finally, there's a small selection of works in the viewing room in the back that are not a part of Expansion, but you wouldn't know that, since this display melds beautifully with the rest of what's on view. These are large and blurry landscape photos by Danae Falliers, put together seamlessly with patented pinhole landscapes, which are also blurry, by David Sharpe.
Robischon is aiming to re-subdivide the space at some point in the future, meaning that the gallery will be spread out through all of it for a limited time only. Meanwhile, it's like having a new museum in town.