Abend’s 28th annual Holiday Miniatures Show is the opposite of the annual Crush Walls. Instead of walking blocks and blocks, craning your head at art painted high up on buildings, you inch around a 1,000-square-foot gallery, squinting into hundreds of tiny worlds.
For this show, Abend restricts artists to works of eighty square inches — smaller than a standard piece of paper, slightly bigger than a coaster. Like the short story, the miniature painting is an exercise in skill and focus that challenges the creator to home in on details and make every brushstroke count.
"The challenge is different for every artist," says Connor Serr, son of Abend founder Christine Serr, who curated the show alongside David Ethridge, co-owner of K Contemporary, which shares the space. "Some of the artists in this show specialize in miniatures, like Dina Brodsky. There are others who are accustomed to large forms."
Fifty artists submitted more than 200 works, in styles ranging from photorealism to neo-impressionism, classic representation, pop art and collage. "With this show, it's unique in that there are so many works," says Serr, who explains that he wanted to collect "a wide variety of styles to cover all the bases."
Subjects range from still-life studies of fruit and flowers to indie-film heroines and butterflies, rubber duckies, unladylike young ladies and a quaint farm home. There are also ghostly girls and gods, odes to shadows and light, open doors, a convertible and road signs.
In the entryway are three classic cowboys done by David Kammerzell. In "Desperado," the subject is armed to the teeth, warily eyeing the peaceful wallpaper around him. A gentleman with two aces and two eights in his hand awaits the next card; he is at once a winner and dead broke. Born in Texas, raised in Denver, Kammerzell makes vintage-toned, nostalgic illustrations of a bygone age.
Hannah Moghbel's peeled oranges are at once jarring and juicy. Currently living in Colorado Springs, Moghbel is a German-Iranian immigrant who grew up in Appalachia. Between “I Saw Your Face in the Reflection of Gold” and “Light Flooded My Heart and Overwhelmed My Senses,” she captures the visceral moment when an orange peel is ripped open and the scent of citrus sprays through the air.
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On the back wall is a set of pop-art collages by Zoa Ace, a Berthoud artist who taps into the human's love of animals and shows how cats and dogs can represent a whole range of human emotions. Ace’s works are practically a staple in Denver art districts.
All of the pieces on display risk appearing easy to make, thanks to their size, and that's part of the fun of the show. "There's a misconception that it doesn't take a lot of time," Serr says. "But that's not true. Some of them take as much time to create as a larger piece."
The Holiday Miniature Show runs through November 24 at Abend Gallery, 1412 Wazee Street; the gallery is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.