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Review: Blood: New Work by Mark Brasuell at Spark Gallery

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Painter Mark Brasuell has been part of Denver’s alternative gallery scene since the 1990s. For most of that time he was a member of Edge Gallery, but a couple of years ago he made a surprise move to join Spark Gallery on Santa Fe Drive. He now has a solo in Spark's west gallery, Blood: New Work by Mark Brasuell, which includes a group of paintings on Mylar sheets along with a distinctly different set of pastel-on-paper drawings.

All of the works, regardless of medium, have to do with the human body, which is vaguely suggested by the show’s evocative title — Brasuell’s own body, in particular, given his recent health issues. Since his style is abstract, Brasuell does not depict the figure per se; instead, he uses his struggles with liver disease —he had a liver transplant — as inspiration.
Though the series began before his operation, most of the paintings and all of the pastels were completed afterward. Several of the paintings were done as part of a demonstration of his method that Brasuell presented this past June at the Denver Art Museum as part of its Movement Studio, in which artists demonstrated the role of movement in their process. Brasuell has described his method as a kind of dance, in which he moves over sheets of Duralar that have been laid on the floor, applying paint to the sheets and then strategically pouring water on them to move the still-wet pigments so that they wind up where he wants them. When he’s satisfied with the composition, he stops and allows the paint to set up on the plastic. The resulting paintings feature big, slashing marks of color; most have a single predominating shade, such as a rich blue or a lurid red.

The pastel-on-paper drawings incorporate semi-representational images, like a human spine or profile, but in their entirety they are abstract, like the paintings. Brasuell grinds his own pastels so that he can come up with personalized colors, supplementing these custom tones with commercially produced charcoal. Brasuell’s paintings and drawings have followed their own separate paths and are distinctly different from one another — above and beyond the necessary shifts required by the respective mediums.
In addition to the Brasuell show, in the east gallery Spark is hosting Water: Elaine Ricklin, with prints, paintings and photo-based works; in the north gallery, color field paintings fill out the eponymous Eva Darrington. All three shows run until October 9 at Spark Gallery, located at 900 Santa Fe Drive. Call 720-889-2200 or go to sparkgallery.com for more information.

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