Art Review

Group show 20th Century Modernists isn't short on first-rate art

This past year, Thérèse O'Gorman moved up from Santa Fe to take over as the exhibition director of David Cook Fine Art in LoDo. For her first show, she has put together 20th Century Modernists, highlighting abstraction done in the West. Old modern art from the 1930s through the '60s is one of the gallery's specialties; the show proper, in the street-level space, is dedicated to New Mexico artists, but O'Gorman has also done a chaser on the lower level that includes historic abstractionists active in Colorado.

As usual for David Cook, there is no shortage of first-rate material. Among the standouts are the non-objective compositions by Emil Bisttram, such as "Affection" (pictured), a drawing that represents his full-blown embrace of Kandinsky-related transcendentalism, his most significant claim to fame.

Raymond Jonson, who used an airbrush to become a master of differentiating forms with hard margins, is also represented. Especially interesting are a group of non-objective compositions from the '40s and '50s that anticipate minimalism.

Beatrice Mandelman, an abstract-expressionist, is another star of the exhibit; her magnificent "Summer," which sports dreamy pastel shades, is one of the first things you'll see when you enter. Mandelman was an automatist who scribbled forms and then painted out the ones she wasn't happy with. And as unlikely as it may seem, it's a formula that really works.

Downstairs, where O'Gorman has mixed in the work of Colorado modernists, are some choice abstracted landscapes by Ethel Magafan. But the revelation of this part of the show is the stunning constructivism of Charles Bunnell, with three of his paintings on display being among the best of the many that I've seen over the years. David Cook owns the Bunnell estate, so the high quality of these pieces is no surprise. (By the way, Bunnell is to be the subject of a career survey at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center this summer — perhaps his first ever.)

20th Century Modernists at David Cook Fine Art (1637 Wazee Street, 303-623-8181, runs through February.

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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