A major retrospective dedicated to Virginia Maitland, a color-field painter from Boulder whose career stretches more than fifty years, fills the lower-level galleries of the Arvada Center. As a companion to this star attraction, Collin Parson put together Connected by Color in the upstairs galleries, inviting four Colorado artists who, like Maitland, employ color as arguably the most important component in their works.
Though all four — Jodi Stuart, Jennifer Ivanovic, Sue Oehme and Patricia Aaron — are women, Parson says he didn't set out to create an all-female show. And there are substantive things beside gender that tie their works to one another — and to Maitland, for that matter. These include not only color, but each artist's interest in creating non-objective compositions and exploiting her chosen medium for its own unique properties.
Stuart, who's from Denver, has adopted an unusual process: She employs a stylus connected to a digital printing-type device that is fed with spools of ABS filament in different colors. This equipment allows Stuart to “draw” in three dimensions, producing scribbly and lacy shapes in single shades. For her installations, she puts the shapes together with others of the same type to create complex arrangements. Sometimes she combines the filament constructions with flat digital prints on vinyl that serve as backgrounds; the insubstantiality of the filament volumes in space contrasts with the solidity of the digital prints, which are applied directly to the wall, thus introducing just the right sense of visual tension between the two distinct mediums.
Ivanovic's op-y mandalas also embrace a novel production method. She pours paint onto boards, then uses drinking straws and toothpicks to move, stop or otherwise control the puddles of liquid so that they take the form she wants. If the resulting paintings were round, they'd have a concentric quality. But these are more complex in their shapes, though they reflect the same idea of a rhythm created by a set of colors repeated in the same order. She achieves this by pouring one color, then another on top, and then another, and another, and so on. Several of the pieces at Arvada have cut-out portions piercing the thick boards on which they're painted, with the holes arranged in patterns.
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Oehme, who is the master printer at her namesake Oehme Graphics in Steamboat Springs, is represented by prints, of course — in this case, mixed-media monoprints. These prints, which make up a coherent body of interrelated work, have dense, all-over compositions set against blocky fields of washes that mask ghostly found imagery accented by circles. Taken together with her airy color schemes, these elements lend the prints a retro mid-century modern attitude, which really works. At first glance, her compositions have an unexpected soft constructivism, with their semi-hidden details only visible through close inspection.
In the most formal rooms on the upper floor are encaustic paintings by Aaron, who lives in Denver. These pieces have a magisterial character, owing both to the iconic quality of the limited palettes she often uses (though there are exceptions) and their quiet shimmer under the spotlights. This subtle luminance is a defining characteristic of Aaron’s oeuvre, since she builds up her paintings by applying layer upon layer of translucent coats of wax infused with pigment. Even in a show organized around the use of color, her skills as an accomplished colorist stand out.
Connected by Color runs through November 11 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard. Call 303-898-7200 or go to arvadacenter.org for more information.