The tight-looking duet James Dormer & Paul Flippen, at Translations Gallery (1743 Wazee Street, 303-629-0713, www.translationsgallery.com), features two artists on the faculty of Colorado State University. Though both work on paper, their approaches are quite different: Dormer is a classic modernist, while Flippen delves into postmodernism.
Neither is particularly well known in Denver, which is a surprise considering how accomplished their work appears to be. This obscurity is particularly strange in the case of Dormer, since he was a protegé of the legendary printmaker Mauricio Lasansky and has been a practicing Colorado artist for nearly forty years. But the explanation for his low profile is simple: Dormer has rarely exhibited his work here.
The Dormers are really nice; they're examples of updated abstract expressionism, with automatist lines arranged in all-over compositions, as seen in prints such as "Plum Tree in June," "Cortona Evening" and "Battle II" (pictured). Some of the titles — and his artist statement — indicate that Dormer is inspired by nature, but the works themselves are completely non-objective, so we'll have to take his word for it. Dormer also sees his prints as being inspired by literature, with a list of his favorite writers including Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams, but we'll have to take his word about that, too, as there's no indication of it at all in the prints themselves.
The Flippens are very different and comprise representational images that the artist sees as metaphorical self-portraits. But these aren't literally figural. Using a combination of materials including ink, watercolors, gouache and acrylic, Flippen lays a central image — a pair of binoculars, a flower, a hand mirror, etc. — on top of a background resembling wallpaper. In addition, Flippen incorporates text that decoratively surrounds the principle image.
An adjunct to the Dormer and Flippen show is Anita Lewis, an eponymous solo of abstract paintings by a California artist. An architectural designer for many years, Lewis only recently started to paint. The shows have been scheduled for an extremely short run and will close on September 15.