Art Review

Artbeat

t's amazing that in the current art world -- where it seems like everyone is searching for the next outrageous irony -- good, old-fashioned representational painters are still going strong, as evidenced by Contemporary Realism, at the William Havu Gallery (1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360). Come to think of it, that's an irony in itself -- though no surprise, since this type of exhibit is so very viewer-friendly and therefore easy to sell. Installed on the gallery's first floor, it features new landscapes by Rick Dula, Aaron Brown and Jeff Aeling.

First up is Dula, who moved to Denver from Oakland, California, a few years ago. He's written that he's interested in what he calls "de-industrialization," and he conjures up romantic views of closed and dilapidated factories, as in "Pueblo Steel Mill," a huge acrylic on canvas that captures the astounding complex on a bleak winter day.

In addition to the factory pieces, there are three paintings of the still-under-construction Hamilton Building -- the Denver Art Museum's new wing designed by Daniel Libeskind. These paintings, including "DAM Structural Steel 2" (above), have an abstract quality, as does the building itself. They strike me as having legs because while they're interesting to look at now, when such scenes are so recently recalled, they'll only get more interesting later, when the Hamilton is finished and these skeletal views are a long-lost memory.

Next to the Dulas are landscapes by Aeling that depict the Great Plains. These are fairly traditional except for the horizon lines, which are so utterly flat that they take on an unexpected geometric-abstract quality. Another twist is the way Aeling has the sky fill nearly the whole picture. Brown, whose work is displayed under the mezzanine, creates enigmatic narrative paintings that may or may not be based on actual places.

In addition to the main display, Havu is presenting a group show on the theme of the cultural landscape. Installed on the mezzanine and including work by artists from the gallery's stable, the aptly titled Americana comprises paintings of roadside attractions.

Both Contemporary Realism and Americana run through May 7 at Havu.

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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