Tina Goodwin will shutter her marvelous gallery, Goodwin Fine Art, by the end of the year. When you go to a first-rate gallery like Goodwin, its elegant appearance and the high quality of its offerings can lull you into feeling like you’re in one of the city’s permanent art attractions, such as the nearby Denver Art Museum. Gallery directors as talented as Goodwin can pull off this fool-the-mind’s-eye trick, seeming to turn commerce into culture. But her gallery is actually a small retail business that still needs to pay the bills, and the short explanation is that Goodwin’s lease is up, and a new lease would increase the rent beyond what the gallery can pay.
The impending closure of Goodwin Fine Art is emblematic of the way that the current real estate boom has been detrimental to Denver’s urbanity, in particular its art scene. (Is it ironic or simply to be expected that as things get more expensive in the Mile High City, Denver also gets less interesting?) The first tenants to flee gentrification were the artist studios and co-ops, which are now scattered to the four winds of the metro area. Inevitably, galleries then started to feel the pinch. Some, including Robischon, William Havu and Space, own their properties, which buffers them somewhat from the potentially deadly interests of investors and developers; Goodwin is not so lucky.
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Tina Goodwin grew up in Littleton and has been a key player in pioneering Denver’s contemporary art scene. In 1981, she started out as a consultant at the Carson-Sapiro Gallery, one of the first major galleries to open in Denver; she later became its director. The early ’80s were a heyday for Denver art sales. Starting in the late ’70s, corporations were relocating to Denver, building skyscrapers, then filling them with art, and Carson-Sapiro was ready to help them do just that. But it all came to an end with the mid-decade oil bust, which left the city, as well as its commercial art scene, flat on its back. After a stint at Sotheby’s in New York in the late ’80s, Goodwin returned to Carson-Sapiro, then left in 1990 and bounced around various venues — including William Havu Fine Art, Joan Robey Gallery and Ginny Williams Gallery — before landing at Western artist William Matthews’s gallery in LoDo in 1995. She remained at the helm there until Matthews closed the gallery in 2010 (he’s now ten blocks away, at Great Basin Studio in RiNo). In December of that same year, Goodwin rented the space that would open in spring 2011 as Goodwin Fine Art.
An effective gallery director and curator needs to have two essential attributes: an eye for fine material that spans the contemporary realm, and a refined sense for the placement of objects within a coherent exhibition design. As shown by Coalesce, the farewell exhibit at Goodwin Fine Art, Goodwin has both qualities in spades. While her gallery has usually presented paired solos — a big one in the front, a small one in back — this show is a group outing, intended to survey many of the artists whose work has been shown here over the past almost eight years. Goodwin has wide-ranging taste, and Coalesce includes both representational pieces and abstracts, many with conceptual aspects. Her artists are linked only by the extent of their talents and their interest in beauty, which they depict in their own ways.
Goodwin has a special taste for conceptual realism, as exemplified by “Fool Me Once,” by Shawn Huckins, a simulation of an eighteenth-century formal portrait of George Washington, with a jarring intervention in the form of a patterned stripe splayed across his face. Also tapping into external realities and the world of ideas is Lanny DeVuono’s “Terraforming 6,” a precise and super-realistic rendering of an imagined landscape set in outer space. Other artists whose work qualifies for the conceptual-realist category include Ashley Eliza Williams, Beau Carey, Lino Lago, Jill Hadley Hooper, Jennifer Nehrbass, Matt Christie and Sharon Feder. Buff Elting is more purely realist, and her “Above the Garden, V” is a straightforward depiction of the sky.
The show also reveals Goodwin’s interest in contemporary abstraction, especially paintings and works on paper that are expressive but often non-objective. Among the artists in this group are Margaret Pettee Olsen, Andy Berg, Mark Villarreal, Marcia Weese, Alison Mary Kay, Debra Van Tuinen and Kimberlee Sullivan. One piece that surprised me was the sensational, neo-abstract-expressionist painting “Blue Persuasion,” by Rebecca Cuming, an artist typically known for abstracted landscapes. According to Goodwin, Cuming has done work of this sort all along but hasn’t shown it much.
Patrick Marold, an artist represented in Coalesce by a rich yet simple gestural abstract drawing, is actually a conceptual sculptor who’s shown monumental works at Goodwin a number of times. His work notwithstanding, Goodwin’s regular stock-in-trade over the years has been paintings and works on paper. More than most contemporary galleries, however, she’s also promoted photography, including some of the top lens wizards around: Andrew Beckham, Carol Golemboski, Patti Hallock, Brenda Biondo, the artist pair Alpert + Khan, Kate Breakey and Linda Connor.
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Goodwin embraced ceramics, too, often in assemblages ranging from tabletop sculptures to large, room-sized installations. Among the ceramic sculpture stars showcased here in the past are Martha Russo, Tsehai Johnson, Mia Mulvey and David Hicks. All of them use recognizable forms as taking-off points for creating abstracted sculptures, and most present works that comprise multiple components in which individual parts are aggregated into a singular whole.
Even though she’s shutting her gallery, Goodwin is not retiring. She’s launching an art consultancy dubbed Goodwin Fine Art/TS Project Art and will provide advising services and do pop-up shows, working off the same website. “I’ll still be spending time with art and artists,” says Goodwin. “I love going to studios and pulling back the curtain on the alchemy, but what I will really miss about having a gallery is regularly putting together shows.”
I’ll miss those shows, and I’ll bet you will, too.
Coalesce, through December 22, Goodwin Fine Art, 1255 Delaware Street. For more information, call 303-573-1255 or go to goodwinfineart.com.