Art Review

Complex Conformity and Rewind 2005

Frank T. Martinez is an emerging self-taught artist who first appeared on the scene in a + Gallery solo back in 2004. At the time, his paintings were abstract and sort of roughly done; his principal compositional device was circular motifs created by transfers off the painted rims of jars or cans. Circles play an even bigger role in the current Complex Conformity, Martinez's second solo at +, but they're more thoroughly fleshed out and done more expertly. In fact, the paintings in this show are so much better than the ones in Martinez's earlier outing that they represent a true breakthrough for the thirty-something artist.

The compositions have a retro quality that recalls art deco from the '20s and '30s, and the color schemes do, too. In the orange, pale blue, black and gray "Untitled 2 -- 1" (above), clusters of concentric circles -- some of them ghostly images that have been painted out -- are set against bars and stripes. The piece reminds me of a deluxe lady's compact or a cigarette case out of an old movie. For that matter, so do the rest of the paintings, which are closely related in appearance and palette.

Martinez explains that he was inspired by topographical maps with all those elevation lines, and I can definitely see that relationship. Considerably less apparent, however, is the psychological content he attempts to convey, with the painted-out portions referring to his private, partly hidden self, while the colored circles represent his more visible public persona.

Although Complex Conformity is the featured attraction at +, gallery owner Ivar Zeile has also put together a group show called Rewind 2005, using last year's exhibition schedule as a guide to selecting the artists included. It's an interesting idea, and conceptually not unlike the Zeile-produced video A Day in the Life of the Cordell Taylor Gallery, which was a speeded-up retrospective of the shows at +'s predecessor. In truth, though, Rewind doesn't held together very well as an exhibit.

Complex Conformity and Rewind 2005 both run through February 24 at + Gallery (2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927).

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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