There are usually interesting shows on view near the corner of 37th Avenue and Navajo Street, but rarely as interesting as those on view at two galleries right now.
Nate Baldwin: Commanding Comprehension, on display at Pirate (3655 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058, www.pirateartonline.com), is made up a single painting — a situation that prompts the question of whether one work is enough to pull off an entire exhibit. Well, when you can paint like Baldwin can, the answer is yes.
The painting, also called "Commanding Comprehension," pays homage to a piece by Caravaggio, the sixteenth-century Italian painter, that depicts the "doubting Thomas" parable. In Baldwin's hyper-realist version, a survivor of a suicide attempt thrusts a doctor's finger into his wound, just as Christ does with Thomas in the Caravaggio. Baldwin's piece is absolutely stunning, something that wasn't unexpected for anyone who saw his debut here in February 2011. Based on what I've seen from this emerging artist, he has to be considered among the top contemporary realists in the state right now — and he definitely needs to get out of Pirate's back room.
Across the street at Edge Gallery (3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173, http://edgeart.org) is Dwell, which brings together three artists — Gayla Lemke, Tim Flynn and Robin Flanagan — all taking a look at domesticity.
Lemke has included a set of her well-known "Hope Stone" sculptures, essentially blobs of clay impressed with quotations; here the stones carry quotes about housing. (A Hope Stone of Lemke's was famously censored for its political content in a show at the Lakewood Cultural Center in 2005.) But her most important pieces in Dwell are the installations in clay and wire, like "Mona Lisa" (pictured), which goes from floor to ceiling.
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Flynn contributes a number of his signature contraptions made of wire and found materials. His models of hanging treehouses are particularly nice. And in a niche toward the back are Flanagan's well-composed color photos of residences.
The most interesting revelation of Dwell is that Lemke is expanding her ceramics into metal, while Flynn is doing just the opposite, incorporating clay into his metal pieces. Apparently they taught each other their respective skills, whereas previously they worked collaboratively.
Both shows close this weekend, on March 25.