Art Review


There's an extremely coherent twosome at the + Gallery (2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927) called Manifesto Abstractos, which features non-objective paintings that are influenced by Hispanic culture. To put this excellent show together, gallery director Gilbert Barrera tapped the talents of an old friend from Houston, Ibsen Espada, and a new friend from Denver, Frank T. Martinez.

The front space is given over to a series of recent paintings by the self-taught Martinez in what constitutes the artist's first-ever exhibition. He makes a good initial impression with these elegant paintings, though other than the colors -- and his name -- it's hard to discern the Latino content.

Martinez includes a group of small paintings, a selection of easel-sized pieces and one monumental composition. All of them are closely related and incorporate patterns -- both ordered and scattered -- as well as hard-edged elements and expressively painted color fields. He seals the pieces in wet-looking finishes, the kind of thing that is seen more and more in contemporary abstraction. It's easy to understand the appeal of glossiness: It has a digital-age quality that seems really now. The resulting paintings, such as "Figure #10", are dense and luxurious, effects that are tamed and heightened, respectively, by that high-gloss finish.

Espada's spectacular abstracts are in the second space. Though he now lives in Houston, he was born in Puerto Rico and educated in Cuba. As with Martinez, it's only Espada's palette that appears to reference the artist's Latin heritage. He uses a lot of bright pastels against deep, dark shades, giving the paintings a definite Caribbean feel. Each of the works includes a tightly defined set of hues -- what could almost be called color schemes.

Most of the paintings are covered with layers of ovals arranged to make loosely organized patterns that are oriented either horizontally or vertically. Both types are equally effective. The shapes were done using a squeegee that pulls the paint into veils of color, which allows the lower layers to show through.

The elegant Manifesto Abstractos runs through October 10.

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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