Earlier this year, Robin Rule made the surprise announcement that she was relocating her swank-looking Broadway gallery to a much smaller space immediately adjacent to Ice Cube in the RiNo neighborhood. A couple of weeks ago, she opened the doors to this latest iteration of the Rule Gallery (3340 Walnut Street, 303-777-9473, www.rulegallery.com). Her debut exhibit is Margaret Neumann: As I Once Knew It..., made up of paintings and drawings by the ultra-idiosyncratic artist.
Neumann was part of a generation of Boulder artists who were associated in the 1960s with the University of Colorado; that list includes the late Dale Chisman, Clark Richert and John DeAndrea, who together can be said to have launched the current art scene here. Many in this group moved to Denver — including Neumann, who became one of the founders of the Spark Gallery co-op, which was named for her dog Sparky. She was also a member of Pirate and, more recently, an original mentor artist at RedLine, though she's set to step down from that role this summer.
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Neumann's signature style, as revealed by the paintings and works on paper at Rule, can be characterized by the sense of discomfort they convey. Her figures are awkwardly posed and clearly out of balance from a compositional standpoint. The paint has been both methodically and clumsily applied. Her palette, with her taste for blacks and reds, also contributes to the uneasiness and edginess of the pictures. To complete the anti-aesthetic program Neumann has embraced in composition, technique and color, the subjects depicted are disturbing in themselves, none more so than the man with a bleeding wound on his head in "Voyage Long Time Ago" (pictured), an oil on canvas. Using conventional measures, you could argue that Neumann doesn't know how to paint. On the other hand, using these same time-tested standards, you could not say by extension that she doesn't know how to conjure up noteworthy paintings, because she absolutely does. The show runs through June 24.