Ivar Zeile is definitely a fan of conceptual art, and he has selected two interesting Colorado painters who work in that manner for a pair of solos on view at Plus Gallery (2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927, www.plusgallery.com).
In the front space is New Frontier, which highlights recent paintings by Dana Costello. These meticulously executed pieces are vaguely existential and star little girls who are minimally suggested. The girls, in black and white, stand out strongly against the candy-colored backgrounds. They have the flavor of Japanese animation or Chinese contemporary realism, both of which trace their origins back to American art, so Costello is obviously returning the favor.
In the second space is Evan Colbert's Safety First, and it's the perfect companion for the Costello show. Colbert is among the state's premier artists and for many years has been interested in working with semiotics — the underpinning of postmodernism — in which signs are turned into symbols. I'll never forget Colbert's paint-chip paintings of a decade ago, in which single shades of flat color are paired with unexpected words. In recent years, he's translated the same wry sensibility into paintings that refer to actual road signs — stop signs at first, but now a wide range of other kinds of advisory signs. The latter works are the ones on view at Plus.
In "The Big Dig," Colbert uses a grid of four diamond-shaped panels to ape actual danger signs with the silhouette of a man wielding a shovel. For "NeoiCons," red roundels are adorned with white imagery, including a map of the earth, the McDonald's golden arches and the CBS eye, among others.
All the Colberts are great — and smart — but my favorite is the multi-part, mural-sized "Warning Sign" (detail pictured), made up of 28 roundels hung in a horizontal strip and done in a range of beautiful blues with white images laid on top. The imagery includes a skull and crossbones, a lightbulb and the Liberty Bell. It's really gorgeous.
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Both shows close March 1.