Gildersleeve, Balas, Bumiller, Judd. Commanding the large front spaces at Robischon Gallery is Allison Gildersleeve: Within Earshot, which includes a selection of paintings in which the artist employs the methods of abstract expressionism but uses them to convey representational subjects. In the small space beyond the Gildersleeves is Jack Balas: Yes/No (the Woods), made up of intimately scaled paintings that combine Western themes with enigmatic references. In the series of roomy spaces adjacent to the main area is Trine Bumiller: Stand, which focuses on recent work by the well-known painter. These paintings are markedly simpler than her earlier, multi-panel, multi-image efforts, with Bumiller using only a single panel for each, as well as a single image: a bare tree against the sky. In the back gallery is Tom Judd: Manifest Destiny, which is made up of paintings with collage that hark back to photos from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Each of these works depicts mountains rendered in an old-fashioned style, in stale, old-fashioned palettes that are made new through passages of color and collage elements. Through July 12 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, robischongallery.com. Reviewed June 19.
Jeff Wenzel.One of Colorado's great abstract artists, Jeff Wenzel has a solid body of work that's been done over the past few decades. Currently, he's the subject of the drop-dead-gorgeous Jeff Wenzel: Duende at Goodwin Fine Art. Though Wenzel's roots are in ceramics — he was a protégé of Peter Voulkos — he has only rarely exhibited his clay works in Denver, and even more rarely has he exhibited them together with his much more familiar paintings. Seeing the two presented together kicks up the visual charge of the show, which, by the way, has been perfectly installed by gallery director Tina Goodwin. The works on view have all been created in the last few months with Wenzel's signature move in both clay and paint being automatism. He thus invariably employs abstract-expressionism as his taking-off point. However, there's more to it than that, since the work unexpectedly combines the sense of freedom that characterizes automatism with its opposite motive, obsessiveness, as Wenzel addresses the same areas over and over again until he gets precisely what he wants. Through July 19 at Goodwin Fine Art, 1255 Delaware Street, 303-573-1255, goodwinfineart.com. Reviewed June 12.
Matt O'Neill. Denver artist Matt O'Neill is the subject of the most significant exhibit of his career, Matt O'Neill: Thrift Store Sublime, at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. As the title suggests, O'Neill likes to reconcile lowbrow aesthetics with highbrow ideas. Over the years, he has embraced a number of styles, and this show features several stylistic phases arranged in a loose sequence. The artist's best-known series is made up of takes on old yearbook photos that have been pushed through a surrealist sieve. In these paintings, the sitters have had their facial features moved around à la Picasso. Next are representational paintings, which reveal that the artist is tremendously adept at traditional picture-making — even if he does have his tongue in his cheek, as in the giant portrait of a tiny Chihuahua. The most recent paintings are pure abstractions — some of which riff on geometric abstraction, others on abstract expressionism. Finally, there's a wall covered with O'Neill's faux wood-shop doodles done in inks that ape the look of ballpoint drawings. Through July 13 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 719-634-5583, csfineartscenter.org. Reviewed May 22.
Space Gallery Grand Opening. Michael Burnett, the director of Space Gallery, and his wife, Melissa Snow, have completed a new building designed by Owen Beard of Solid Design. The new Space Gallery, commanding the corner of West Fourth Avenue and Santa Fe Drive, is a swank neo-modernist structure and an instant landmark. The inaugural show is called Space Gallery Grand Opening; for it, Burnett chose to include every artist associated with the gallery. Though there are a handful of artists working with the figure, including William Stoehr and Jason Lee Gimbal, most of the Space artists work in pure abstraction. Standouts here include Patricia Aaron, Sarah Fox, Corey Postiglione, Marks Aardsma, Carlene Francis, Ian McLaughlin, Jeff Curry, Scott Holderman, Lewis McInnis, Haze Diedrich, Robin Ault and Tonia Bonnell. Although Space has a lot of square footage inside and a scupture garden outside, there are only a few sculptors on its roster, including Stephen Shachtman, Michael Rand and Tyler Aiello. The gallery will need to add more sculptors in order to fill all that extra room. Through July 12 at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, spacegallery.org.
Stephen Batura. The extraordinary Stephen Batura: Stream at Ironton Gallery features seventeen horizontal paintings lined up to form a continuous strip that runs 110 linear feet, wrapping itself around the space. Batura creates paintings based on historic images; for the past decade, those have concerned Denver's daily life a century ago and were inspired by photographs taken by Charles Lillybridge. Lillybridge was an amateur camera hobbyist, and 1,300 of his snapshots wound up at History Colorado. Batura uses the photos as "sketches," and the painter often changes the photographer's compositions, cropping them differently and altering the details. For Stream, all of the scenes are set along the Platte River or some other waterway. Some of the imagery is unclear, like the extremely vaporous view of swans (none of the paintings have been individually titled). The paintings that make up Stream are not only on separate panels, but they also have individual non-continuous compositions and distinctive palettes. Through June 28 at Ironton Studios and Gallery, 3636 Chestnut Place, irontonstudios.com. Reviewed June 19.