Art Review: Good Work Is Building in Roadside Attractions at William Havu

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Colorado artist Rick Dula is a local master of contemporary hyperrealist painting who is best known for his magnificent mural “A Place in Time: Here,” which is periodically on view at the Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building. The mural functions as an X-ray of sorts of the wall on which it is painted: In it, Dula meticulously depicts the structural members that lie behind the wall but are hidden by it.

The subject matter of the mural, a building, is a Dula signature, as the artist revels in rendering the built environment. It’s also the focus of his current show, Roadside Attractions, at the William Havu Gallery.

As with the DAM mural, here Dula captures rapidly changing views related to new construction, so that the scene will be more or less erased once the particular project is finished. This is the case with the handsome “Denver Justice Center,” which portrays the jail as it was being built. The composition is extremely dense with a wide range of carefully done elements, from the cast-concrete walls to the equipment scattered around the site. A great pictorial device is the pair of crane footings bracketing the picture.

The construction paintings are purely urban in feeling, but Dula also does work that contrasts bucolic settings with heavy industry, as in “Sand Creek Refinery." In the foreground of the painting is a languorous creek with a chunk of debris in it; beyond it are refinery towers accented by the high-tension wires needed to service the facility.

Dula is given the lead-artist role in the show, but his work is supplemented by that of other contemporary realists. Majestic scenes of Colorado and New Mexico are rendered realistically in the monumental paintings by Missouri’s Jeff Aeling. The views that Aeling captures are reminiscent of traditional landscape paintings; he is especially adept at conveying atmospheric effects such as gathering storm clouds or the advance of sundown.

Closer to Dula’s approach than to Aeling’s are the multi-part town views done by Lloyd Brown, who lives in Utah but who has a special interest in Colorado. For “Early Morning, Downtown Holly,” Brown built an elaborate architectonic wooden structure, within which five different paintings of street scenes are linked into a single composition.

Up on the mezzanine is a charming assortment of landscapes done in an expressionist style by Lori Buntin. Like Dula and Brown, Buntin works in multi-panel formats; interestingly, though, in her paintings the scenes do not line up evenly as they run from one panel to another.

Roadside Attractions is on view through August 8 at the Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street; call 303-893-2360 or go to williamhavugallery.com for more information.

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