Broadly speaking, realist work with a conceptual component has been around a long time, but it wasn't until the 1980s and '90s that it really took hold, arguably becoming the stylistic choice for contemporary artists during that time. Now the idea is well established, and there's no shortage of it in the galleries.
Edge Gallery (3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173, http://edgeart.org) is hosting a pair of solos, Jeneve Parrish: n + everything and Susanne Mitchell: In-Between that together make the point that there's more to representational art than meets the eye. Both Parrish and Mitchell explore conceptual realism by assembling precisely rendered representations of people and things to enigmatically carry out narratives. In fact, there is so much harmony in their approaches that at first I thought the two shows read together as a solo. Instead, each artist tells her own story, and the key differences that separate their respective pieces emerged clearly on closer examination.
Parrish is interested in conveying the simultaneity of nothing and everything — that's what that plus/minus in the show's title means. She has decided to make the ideas of "nothing" and "everything" into concrete images — a swath of wallpaper for "nothing," a view of the cosmos for "everything." This dichotomy is seen throughout the show, with paired drawings that include the "nothing" wallpaper in one, and the "everything" cosmos in the other. In spite of this structural burden, many of the drawings are great.
For Mitchell, the cross-cultural experience of her young son is the subject of a set of large and elaborate drawings that bridge the gap between the U.S. and Africa. Mitchell's ex-husband is from an isolated village in Malawi, meaning that's where her son's extended family lives. Mitchell has frequently traveled to Africa and has made sure that her little boy stays connected to his relatives there. This story is all laid out in these large drawings, with the circumstances of Mitchell's life providing her a great entree into the art-of-identity movement.
Both shows run through July 17.