Art Review

Julia Fernandez-Pol at Carson van Straaten Gallery

When Sandy Carson, a fixture in Denver's contemporary art world, announced earlier this year that she had sold her namesake gallery, even insiders were shocked. Carson has been on the scene since the beginning of time, which in Denver means the 1970s.

The buyers were Bill and Jan van Straaten, who changed the name to the Carson van Straaten Gallery (760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585,, and many have wondered about the future direction of the gallery. Julia Fernandez-Pol, which highlights recent paintings by this emerging Boston artist, is our first indication, as it's the initial effort of the new era. It turns out that Fernandez-Pol's compelling abstract paintings are very compatible with the established aesthetic program that's been the gallery's signature for decades; her work looks like a cross between that of Homare Ikeda and Lorey Hobbs, both of whom are part of the gallery's roster.

Fernandez-Pol first came to the attention of the van Straatens when she earned a residency at Riverhouse Editions, their fine-print outfit in Steamboat Springs, and this show includes a series of embossed monotypes she did at Riverhouse a few months ago, among them "Reef Series, 26" (pictured), which is gorgeous.

Just as spectacular — or maybe even more so, owing to their remarkable tactile qualities — are her incredible oil-on-canvas paintings, many of which are large. The artist's compositions are crowded with formal elements based on vaguely organic shapes that are held together in the pictures by an awkward sense of balance. She works the paint in a number of ways, most notably by making gigantic brush marks that look like cake decorations, both because they resemble the familiar candy flowers made of frosting and because of the colors, which also suggest the shades that cake frosting comes in.

I loved Fernandez-Pol's pieces at Carson van Straaten and highly recommend that you check out this show before it closes on November 14.

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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