Chris Richter. Back in March, gallery director Bobbi Walker realized that her planned June slot had come apart and that she needed to come up with somebody fast. At the time, she was checking out the scene in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and came across the work of painter Chris Richter. She instantly offered him a show. The result is Chris Richter: Revealed, which is made up of post-minimal field paintings that are extremely beautiful. Richter, who claims to be referring to nature in these oil-on-panel abstractions, begins by building up layers of different colored paints, and then, after they've dried, sanding the surfaces until he gets the vaporous pictorial elements he's aiming for. The paintings have a contemplative mood, though conceptually they mark a collision of the minimalist monochrome aesthetic and the expressionist forms that emerge after sanding. The Richter selections are joined by scorched wooden wall sculptures by Munson Hunt, small photo-based installations by Sabin Aell, and Zelda Zinn's photo-based images that look like drawings. Through July 19 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Ave., #A, 303-355-8955, walkerfineart.com.
One of Colorado's great abstract artists, Jeff Wenzel has a solid body of work that's been done over the past few decades. Currently, he's the subject of the drop-dead-gorgeous Jeff Wenzel: Duende at Goodwin Fine Art. Though Wenzel's roots are in ceramics — he was a protégé of Peter Voulkos — he has only rarely exhibited his clay works in Denver, and even more rarely has he exhibited them together with his much more familiar paintings. Seeing the two presented together kicks up the visual charge of the show, which, by the way, has been perfectly installed by gallery director Tina Goodwin. The works on view have all been created in the last few months with Wenzel's signature move in both clay and paint being automatism. He thus invariably employs abstract-expressionism as his taking-off point. However, there's more to it than that, since the work unexpectedly combines the sense of freedom that characterizes automatism with its opposite motive, obsessiveness, as Wenzel addresses the same areas over and over again until he gets precisely what he wants. Through July 19 at Goodwin Fine Art, 1255 Delaware Street, 303-573-1255, goodwinfineart.com. Reviewed June 12.
Matt O'Neill. Denver artist Matt O'Neill is the subject of the most significant exhibit of his career, Matt O'Neill: Thrift Store Sublime, at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. As the title suggests, O'Neill likes to reconcile lowbrow aesthetics with highbrow ideas. Over the years, he has embraced a number of styles, and this show features several stylistic phases arranged in a loose sequence. The artist's best-known series is made up of takes on old yearbook photos that have been pushed through a surrealist sieve. In these paintings, the sitters have had their facial features moved around à la Picasso. Next are representational paintings, which reveal that the artist is tremendously adept at traditional picture-making — even if he does have his tongue in his cheek, as in the giant portrait of a tiny Chihuahua. The most recent paintings are pure abstractions — some of which riff on geometric abstraction, others on abstract expressionism. Finally, there's a wall covered with O'Neill's faux wood-shop doodles done in inks that ape the look of ballpoint drawings. Through July 13 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 719-634-5583, csfineartscenter.org. Reviewed May 22.
Space Gallery Grand Opening. Michael Burnett, the director of Space Gallery, and his wife, Melissa Snow, have completed a new building designed by Owen Beard of Solid Design. The new Space Gallery, commanding the corner of West Fourth Avenue and Santa Fe Drive, is a swank neo-modernist structure and an instant landmark. The inaugural show is called Space Gallery Grand Opening; for it, Burnett chose to include every artist associated with the gallery. Though there are a handful of artists working with the figure, including William Stoehr and Jason Lee Gimbal, most of the Space artists work in pure abstraction. Standouts here include Patricia Aaron, Sarah Fox, Corey Postiglione, Marks Aardsma, Carlene Francis, Ian McLaughlin, Jeff Curry, Scott Holderman, Lewis McInnis, Haze Diedrich, Robin Ault and Tonia Bonnell. Although Space has a lot of square footage inside and a scupture garden outside, there are only a few sculptors on its roster, including Stephen Shachtman, Michael Rand and Tyler Aiello. The gallery will need to add more sculptors in order to fill all that extra room. Through July 12 at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, spacegallery.org.
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