That’s certainly true for Sarah Winkler, whose collages and paintings are now on view at K Contemporary in Sarah Winkler — Luminous Mountainous. While these works are definitely depictions of mountains, they are also, improbably enough, color-field abstractions. “I think of myself as an abstract artist,” Winkler told me, and when I pointed out that her pieces were clearly views of the Rockies, she offered a persuasive explanation. Although the receding silhouettes clue the viewer to the subject, Winkler does not employ perspective; instead, to communicate depth, she uses overlapping planes, as the cubists did. The mountains themselves are constructed from non-objective, hard-edged shapes covered in automatist markings.
Winkler’s painting process is completely different from the cutting and pasting required for the collages, though. For the paintings, she pours paint onto a panel and then presses a sheet of Mylar against it, manipulating it with her fingers and producing painterly flourishes without using a brush. After lifting off the Mylar, she goes in with more paint to reinforce the margins of the separate shapes and to cover parts where areas of paint have bled into one another. The paintings in Luminous Mountainous are all depictions of views glimpsed in peculiar light — in particular, that of last year’s eclipse — and the odd glow guided her choice of rich and deep colors. Sometimes these shades glisten, but that quality can also be ascribed to her incorporation of tiny metal flakes and marble dust in some of the paint.
Color and form are also the keystones of The Future Is Liquid, a gorgeous group show at Space Gallery with nary a mountain or anything else recognizable, not even if you squint.
Michael Hedges, with thick bars of paint applied in single strokes by a wide brush loaded with some kind of bright color. Hedges, a Chicago artist, has written that his process involves “great bursts of energy,” and you can see that quality in the paintings, which include a dizzying number of individual marks that have been piled on top of one another, filling the canvas to all four edges. All of the Hedges pieces resonate closely with one another and are intimately interrelated in both their shared palette and their similar composition. This consistency can be partly explained by the fact that Hedges normally works on ten or more paintings at once, presumably applying one color to all the canvases, then another color to all of them, and on and on. No matter how he makes them, though, the results are gorgeous.
Monroe Hodder’s many paintings and works on paper could serve as another solo — but it would be the size of a museum show. Hodder maintained a home and studio in Steamboat Springs for many years and is well known in Denver, where she’s shown her work around town. Although she relocated to New York a few years ago, she’s maintained a local presence through exhibits such as this. Ten years ago, a signature Hodder would have been a stack of horizontal bars that were thickly and heavily painted and then overpainted. A few years ago, she broke with this strict formality and began exploring other directions. Her latest turn is using spattered screens of color floating over heavily worked and multi-colored fields, and the paintings are dazzling. In addition to these large pieces, she’s contributed a grid of 49 works on paper with a separate, single painterly gesture on each that lay out the vocabulary of marks that she’s used on the paintings.
In the heat of July, these colorful exhibits are the aesthetic equivalents of summer carnivals for the eye.
Sarah Winkler — Luminous Mountainous, through July 28, K Contemporary, 1412 Wazee Street, 303-590-9800, kcontemporaryart.com.
The Future Is Liquid, through August 4, Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive, 303-993-3321, spacegallery.org.