The Space Gallery (765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, www.spacegallery.org) is one of only a handful of spots in the Santa Fe Arts District that can be counted on to have exhibits worth seeing. For its first effort of the fall, Space director Michael Burnett has paired two interesting abstract solo shows: Paul Ecke and Ryan Anderson.
Ecke, from California, combines expressionist passages with loose geometry. In a number of the pieces, he juxtaposes heavily worked fields separated by vertical or horizontal lines. In some cases, he also adds hardware, such as metal rings, and scrawled numbers and letters. Though hardly groundbreaking, most are very good-looking.
Anderson's work, which I first saw at Space in 2005, is very idiosyncratic, and though he's been using this style for two years, the results still seem fresh and new. Well thought out and meticulously crafted, his paintings are quite original. In my opinion, he's clearly one of the top young talents in town.
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Primarily a ceramics artist, Anderson studied the medium at Montana State University, the Archie Bray Foundation, the University of Colorado and Anderson Ranch; he now teaches ceramics at the Boulder County Day School. He turned to painting a few years ago, however, after suffering a type of brain aneurysm that kills 95 percent of those it strikes — wow! (He spent a couple of months in intensive care, with the resulting medical bills totaling $1 million.)
It's easy to see the superficial ways that his paintings relate to ceramics, in particular the crystalline effects of his painted grounds, which are evocative of glazes. The paint has curdled and set into naturalistic patterns reminiscent of cut stone. Anderson points out that environmental conditions, especially temperature and light, affect the way the paint reacts, adding that they must be perfect to get the desired results.
Other ties to ceramics are harder to see, and before he showed them to me, I didn't perceive them. His circular elements, for instance, have been made on a sheet of glass placed on a potter's wheel; he then transfers the paint from the glass onto the panels. This process apes the pate-sur-pate technique in clay wherein ornament is produced separately and is then lifted and attached to the body of the piece, à la Wedgwood. Anderson's technique can be seen in several paintings in the exhibit, such as "Blue" (pictured), a fiberglass hemisphere adorned with translucent roundels.
While "Blue" and related pieces, like "Levitate" and "Bombay Moon," are fairly typical for Anderson, other paintings in the show are clearly different, revealing that the artist has been in an experimental mood. In "Tight," horizontal stripes cover the long panel; in "Wish," there's a target made from open circles of paint; and in "Guardian," there's a garland of circles embracing the bottom. It will be interesting to see where all this leads. Both shows run through October 13.