Art Review


Located across the street from the west side of the Denver Art Museum, next to the venerable Camera Obscura, is the city's coziest little art shop, the Emil Nelson Gallery (1307 Bannock Street, 303-534-0996). Into the warren of small rooms that once made up the first floor of an old row house, director Hugo Anderson shoehorns an amazing amount of high-quality material, both historical and contemporary, in and around the windows, woodwork and fireplace. The resulting ambience is wonderful.

The newest offering at Emil Nelson is the fascinating group show Abstractions on Paper, which opens with a reception from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, May 7. For the exhibit, Anderson selected prints, drawings, watercolors and photographs from the gallery's impressive stock of works by historic artists and supplemented them with pieces by contemporary local artists that are on consignment. All in all, the efforts of more than two dozen artists are included -- making it a very big presentation, given how small the gallery is.

There are some choice items by major artists here, including works by Elaine de Kooning, Stanley Hayter, Mauricio Lasansky and, of course, Herbert Bayer, a gallery favorite. Though works by the late Bayer, who was an Aspen resident, have been included in shows here before, the watercolors in Abstractions are on display for the first time. One of these, "Water" (above), was done in 1947, soon after the artist moved to this state. The scribbled naturalistic lines reveal the influence of Colorado and the Broadmoor Academy style on Bayer, a German emigré.

Among the contemporary artists in the show are Lanse Kleaveland, who's done a series of pieces depicting intertwined organic shapes, and Sarah Vaeth, whose prints are anchored by deep, black fields set down right in the middle. Also very nice are the small square works with a cruciform shape in the center created by Irene Watts, an artist who exhibited frequently in town in the past, but who hasn't been out there for a while.

Abstractions on Paper has just started its run at the Emil Nelson Gallery, so there's plenty of time to enjoy it before it closes on June 26.

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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