More than any other artist cooperative around town, Spark Gallery (900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200, www.sparkgallery.com) has a membership mostly comprising artists with long and established careers. And that's how I'd describe both Judith Cohn and Sue Simon, who are starring in side-by-side solo shows there.
Dust to Dust is Cohn's latest floor-bound installation made of ceramic elements. Cohn often refers to the earth in her pieces, and she compares Dust to Dust to an archaeological dig in which layers of "debris" are piled on other layers. The "debris" in this piece is made up of simple, conventionalized shapes in a range of forms, some suggesting bones or twigs, along with fans, footprints and vaguely organic shapes. The colors used for the parts, including white, tan and a dingy blue, are also earthy. Though not completely successful — I think Cohn should have done something with the walls — Dust to Dust is intelligent and has a lot of visual interest.
Simon's Synthesis is installed in the east side of Spark, and it more thoroughly fills out the space than Cohn's show. Simon is interested in mathematics and science and has been doing abstract paintings that illustrate these topics for many years. Her signature style combines painterly passages overlaid with math problems or technical drawings. They've always been interesting, but this latest batch struck me as being more resolved and thus visually stronger than most of her earlier efforts. The paintings are made up of individual panels of different sizes clustered so that there are wide open spaces in the middle, allowing the wall to become part of the pieces. This approach is seen in "Technology" (pictured), in which the painted panels create a frame surrounding nothing. "The universe is matter and space — everything in it is matter with space in between — and that's what I'm doing in my paintings," says Simon.
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Cohn and Simon will co-host a "coffee with the artists" at Spark on January 26 from noon to 5 p.m. Both shows will close immediately afterward.