Art Review

Artbeat

It's strange to find a first-rate painting show on the second floor of a run-down warehouse near the National Western Stock Show Complex -- but that's exactly what's there right now.

The impressive exhibit is called hEMLOCK rOW: Paintings by Stephen batura, and it's on display in a building known only by its address, 4701 National Western Drive (303-915-1846). The huge building is mostly empty, leaving Batura with over 4,000 square feet of ad hoc gallery space to fill with his marvelous contemporary representational paintings.

These works, many of which are monumental views of train wrecks (a subject Batura's looked at before), are brand-new, for the most part, though the recent pieces are supplemented with some of the artist's older flood paintings. Batura bases his compositions on historic photos stored in the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library.

Using casein on wooden panels, Batura creates halftone views in different monochromes using a wide range of colors.

In "Interruption," one of the only easel-sized paintings in the show, Batura depicts a couple of derailed boxcars. As always, his draftsmanship and compositional sense are superb.

Batura's handling of paint has a casual and almost slapdash quality; nonetheless, he manages to capture his subjects vividly and accurately, so that they seem to be based on photos. The paintings are not hyper-realist, though; they're too brushy and expressionist for that.

Stylistically, these paintings are a continuation of the work Batura's done over the past few years. Not only are they the heirs of pieces he exhibited at the old Forney Museum, but they are also closely related to his "Lowry Trios," a multi-part mural at the Schlessman Family Branch Library.

Batura is currently between galleries, which is why his work is hanging in such an oddball -- or would that be ridiculous? -- place. The warehouse is open Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 to 3; the show closes on Halloween night.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia