Review: Two Solo Shows Make Connections at Michael Warren Contemporary

The show Connection/Substrate: New Works by Kelton Osborn.
The show Connection/Substrate: New Works by Kelton Osborn.

The large spaces at Michael Warren Contemporary are extremely flexible, with lots of moveable walls that allow director Michael McClung to present different exhibits simultaneously. Right now the gallery has two interesting solos, both featuring the work of Colorado artists, with one in the large set of front spaces, and the other in the swanky showroom at the back.

The first, Connection/Substrate: New Works by Kelton Osborn, sports recent paintings and works on paper by a Denver artist whose day job is as an architect: Kelton Osborn is the principal at QUICK-BEND Design. Given his vocation, you might expect Osborn to do geometric work reminiscent of architectural plans, the kind carried out with precision instruments — but that expectation would be wrong. Although he does employ straight-ish lines and vaguely geometric shapes that are broadly architectonic, they’ve been freely done, and their placement seems to be guided by instinctual impulses. Osborn’s approach to his compositions is to combine representation with abstraction, making the architectural references subtle, sometimes just suggested or even completely covert.

"Arroyo Cutting No. 3," by Kelton Osborn, mixed material on paper.
"Arroyo Cutting No. 3," by Kelton Osborn, mixed material on paper.
Kelton Osborn

His signature compositions feature a light-colored ground (for his drawings, it’s simply the blank paper) on which there is a clench of forms in graphite, pastel and acrylic. A dominant component is the tension produced by Osborn’s use of opposing linear elements, either verticals against horizontals or multiple crossed diagonals; all of the lines and shapes appear to have been done quickly and spontaneously. He also uses paint-outs where the pentimenti of covered-over images bleed through to the surface; in other places, he uses scribbled lines to mask out parts. Exemplifying many of these characteristics is “Arroyo Cutting #3,” a mixed media on paper that is among the strongest pieces in the show.

"Too Far to Turn Around," by Meghan Wilbar, oil on wood panel.
"Too Far to Turn Around," by Meghan Wilbar, oil on wood panel.
Meghan Wilbar

The second Michael Warren exhibit is Getting Grounded: New Works by Meghan Wilbar. Whereas the Osborn works are abstractions that have vague representational suggestions, Meghan Wilbar’s approach is more straightforwardly representational, even if she delivers her imagery via abstract moves and techniques. Wilbar, who lives in Pueblo but studied in New York and Paris, assembles expressive smears, smudges and globs of paint to convey a recognizable sight — in this case, contemplative landscapes or busy cityscapes. Her skill in using these splotches of oil pigments on wood to credibly depict mountains or towns is nothing short of remarkable, as is her expert eye for putting together luscious palettes of compatible earth tones.

The paired Osborn and Wilbar solos run through March 19 at Michael Warren Contemporary, 760 Santa Fe Drive. To find out more, call 303-667-2447 or go to michaelwarrencontemporary.com

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