Art Review

Review: Abstracts With Shapes Inspired by Nature Fill Space Gallery

Nature’s Line, the lyrical group show now at Space Gallery, is a worthy followup to the impressive Pattern, which was presented there earlier this summer. In Pattern, the theme was repeated imagery, as the title suggests. This time, the subject is the organic line, which is also conveyed in the title.

Both shows were organized by gallery director Michael Burnett, who brought together abstract artists — mostly painters — from inside and outside Colorado. And it’s important to point out that the artists in the current show aren’t abstracting flowers, plants or animals. Rather, they are using free-flowing lines and rounded shapes, which hint at natural things but do not ape them. Each artist has been given a separate section, so that each has a sort of mini-solo within the group.

For her handsome paintings, Carlene Frances was inspired by Asian aesthetics — in particular, the concept of using open space as a major compositional device. Soft ovals float across the picture plane, with scribbles and pseudo-calligraphic marks receding into the background. Frances’s palettes are rich and simple, with a somber and dignified quality to them, and she develops wonderful contrasts between neutral tones and tasty shades like green and violet, as seen in “TOC #9” (pictured).

Taiko Chandler, whose work is displayed upstairs, takes a different approach to riffing on Asian art, homing in on calligraphy and even origami. This can be seen in her installation, “Pathway to Somewhere.”

Ian McLaughlin’s paintings sport heavily painted shapes stacked one on top of another, with lots of expressionist passages like drips and blobs of paint. But he also typically preserves the figure/ground relationship of non-abstract paintings. He’s got a taste for strong colors, and his pieces really pop. Interestingly, McLaughlin also does films in which forms similar to those found in his paintings morph into other forms. None of those have been included in Nature’s Line, however.

Diane Cionni’s work is distinct from all the others and really sticks out, especially the two paper wall installations done collaboratively with Vickey Tomayko. In them, dense tangles of images — some geometric, some organic — are piled on top of and next to one another, creating a visual maze of sorts.

Another artist whose work stands out from the others is the show’s only sculptor, Miguel Edwards, who contributes brightly colored compositions in metal that take the form of simple shapes.

The remaining artists in Nature’s Line are doing individualized and updated versions of classic abstract expressionism. These artists, all of whom are painters, include Karen Scharer, Laura Wait and John Wood.

Nature’s Line runs through July 25 at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive; call 720-904-1088 or go to for more information.

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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