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Review: Familiar Scenes Make for Fine Art at Michael Warren

Western Sky/Northern Lights, by Anna Dvorak.
Western Sky/Northern Lights, by Anna Dvorak.
Installation image courtesy Michael Warren Contemporary

Michael Warren Contemporary often shows artists associated with Colorado who do not live in Denver, and that's the case with two solos currently on display in the gallery.

Western Sky/Northern Lights showcases recent abstract paintings by Anna Dvorak, who divides her time between Minneapolis and Colorado. The paintings were inspired by sights she’s seen, with many representing twilight views of the grasslands of the high plains, though there's also a suggestion of the Northern Lights in some. Even so, Dvorak's paintings do not literally refer to the land and sky — but her use of stacked and recessive horizontal elements, as well as particularly evocative colors ranging from earthy shades at the bottom to ethereal ones above causes the viewer to recognize them as landscapes. The margins between the colors are blurry and the resulting forms vague; the stained effect on the canvases is reminiscent of color-field painting.

“Drought #13,” by Elizabeth Ferrill, acrylic and gouache on paper.
“Drought #13,” by Elizabeth Ferrill, acrylic and gouache on paper.
Courtesy of the artist

The mood shifts considerably in the intimate passage gallery just beyond the Dvorak section, where Drought: New Works by Elizabeth Ferrill has been installed. Ferrill was formerly associated with the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass. Her specialty is an almost archaic printmaking technique called pochoir, in which ink is pushed through stencils. Ferrill is a master of this unwieldy method, and the resulting works on paper have an almost photographic crispness. For subject matter, Ferrill goes with such mundane objects as a sewer grate or a rack of clothes. Although the drought of the title is not conveyed by any of these images, they do communicate the idea of a heat wave through the strong contrasts and lit-up colors.

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Collage paintings by Teresa Booth Brown.
Collage paintings by Teresa Booth Brown.
Installation image courtesy Michael Warren Contemporary

In the rest of the gallery, including the main front space and the angular back space, co-director Mike McClung has put together a group show of artists from the gallery’s stable. Almost everything shown here is either abstract or at least abstracted, though there are exceptions. Among the standouts are the collage paintings by Teresa Booth-Brown, the odd painted plaster tondos by Quintin Gonzalez, and the assortment of constructions by Kelton Osborn. While I was taking in the show, McClung mentioned how much he liked group efforts and said that the gallery would be moving toward presenting more of them in the coming year.

All three shows close on January 13. Michael Warren is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and located at 760 Santa Fe Drive. Call 303-636-6255 or go to michaelwarrencontemporary.com for additional information.

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