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Review: Contemporary Art Takes Shape at Rule Gallery

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A handful of galleries mounted shows this summer that were meant to coincide with Denver’s Biennial of the Americas and its one-size-fits-all theme of “now.” Rule Gallery got on board and invited guest curator Hayley Richardson to come up with Nothing Belongs to Us, an exhibit intended to reflect what is happening now in contemporary art. Richardson, who holds an MA from the University of Denver, is the special projects coordinator for the Dikeou Collection. Despite the anything-goes nature of the open-ended theme “now,” Richardson somehow came up with a fairly coherent offering, especially considering the limited space available to her at Rule.

The first piece, “Moving Mona,” by Chris Bagley, is set apart from the rest of the show in the informally finished anteroom, just inside the door. Despite the isolation, it sets up Richardson’s take on “now” — that it’s the product of the past. In an interactive video projection, a digitized image of the “Mona Lisa” changes as viewers walk by it, with Bagley thus conflating the Renaissance and new media.

The remaining four artists are featured in the gallery proper, where their work has been elegantly installed; the various pieces are linked through their limited palettes of mostly black and white. Two of the artists, Michael Theodore and Jessica Angel, are creating conceptual abstractions, while the other two, Jenny Vogel and Caleb Hahne, work in conceptual realism, like Bagley.

Theodore is represented by a quartet of works that look like fanatically done doodles of mind-bending complexity. However, it wasn’t Theodore who carried out these exercises in obsession; they were instead “drawn” by digital machines that he invented. Adjacent — and acting as a perfect foil for the Theodores — are Angel’s layered hybrids of drawing and painting. These are vaguely geometric with 3D effects lending them an architectonic character. Even more architectural is Angel’s small installation of rectilinear shapes in folded paper, done just for this show.

Referring to the figure is Vogel’s animated video depicting historic sculptures of the nude poetically passing in front of one another in an imaginary darkened space. Nearby are two small, compelling sculptures from Hahne’s “Fade Away” series. One is a “melting” bust, the other a fragment of one. Hahne is also represented by three haunting works on paper, including “Found Cover II," an altered book cover.

Nothing Belongs to Us, at Rule Gallery, located within Hinterland at 3254 Walnut Street, runs only through the weekend (it closes August 15). For more information, call 303-800-6776 or go to rulegallery.com.

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