Ivar Zeile, director of + Gallery (2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927), went to college in Utah and during his student days became friends with painter Jean Arnold. As so often happens, the two friends drifted apart after school. When Zeile recently came upon Arnold's work on the Internet, it had been years since he had last seen her. He liked what he saw, and the result is URBAN ORGANICA, a solo made up of Arnold's paintings and a related handmade book.
Arnold's style, which is predominantly abstract with references to representational imagery, has a retro quality that recalls second-generation abstract expressionism and figural abstraction from the '60s. Maybe it's this backward look, or perhaps the artist's enthusiastic brushwork, that makes these paintings seem old-fashioned and fairly conservative.
That said, the idea behind them is interesting, especially since it's so readily apparent. Arnold records the sights of motor trips she's taken around the West. Using a free-flowing technique, she assembles elements of the ever-changing views by overlapping different images -- which, to some extent, conveys the idea that she's moving forward. In the title piece, "Urban Organica" (above), an oil on canvas, there are repeated outlines of streetlights on the right and soft rectangles on the left, some of which just might be cars.
In addition to the half-dozen large paintings, there's an assortment of smaller ones and an interesting artist book on display in a niche at the back of +. These also concern road trips, none more clearly than the book, titled Bus Roam: Holladay/Redwood. Arnold created a box for the volume, covered with a collage inspired by an uncle who is also an artist. The book folds out like an accordion so that the pages are actually one continuous strip. One side of this very long, single folded page is covered in heavy rag paper decorated with lines and blobs in pencil, ink and water color; the other side (which is hidden) is covered with a cheap gas-station road map.
Jean Arnold's URBAN ORGANICA at + closes on May 19.
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