Review: Impressive Conn Ryder and Michael Pointer Solos at Point Gallery

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When the label “emerging artist” crops up, it typically refers to a kid who is still wet behind the ears. Sometimes, though, an emerging artist is one who has been at it for years but only recently started to exhibit. That describes Conn Ryder, whose impressive Conn Ryder: Selected Works closes this weekend in the front space at Point Gallery. I’d never heard of Ryder when I happened into Point a couple of weeks ago, but I was knocked out by the freshness of her work.
Ryder’s abstracts are reminiscent of florals, both from a compositional standpoint, where the visual information seems crowded in the middle, and in the details, like the crooked lines that resemble twigs. I intuited from these factors that she’d arrived at these non-objective compositions via representational art, and she later confirmed that to me. Early on, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Ryder was interested in illustration, but she set aside her poetic dreams for the more prosaic life of an administrator at a lobbying firm. Then, eight years ago, she returned to art, this time embracing abstraction. Although she wasn’t satisfied with her earliest abstract efforts, she arrived at a successful approach a few years later, and the paintings that make up this show are ones that she’s completed since that breakthrough.
In the enormous double-height space at Point is another impressive show, Michael Pointer: Silhouettes of Other Dreams, which comprises photos that have been “painted” with emulsions. Pointer, who is from Kansas, is interested in melding photography and painting; he was inspired by his father, Ed Pointer, a painter who was interested in photography. The images at Point are presented informally, unframed on unsupported pieces of paper, typically with several sheets used for each one.
The reference to “dreams” is conveyed by the fact that the recognizable elements of these photos have been covered over with drips and smears from the emulsion fluids Pointer has applied. The results have the character of montages in which multiple images are put together into the same photo, so it’s hard to say exactly what they’re about. Done in black and white, the photo-based pieces have an undeniable air of somberness, a mood enhanced by the spare hanging at Point.
I think of Point as a place to see contemporary representational art, so the abstract paintings by Ryder and the abstracted photos by Pointer were both surprising and worth seeing. The Ryder and Pointer shows run through April 30 at Point Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive; get more information at pointgallerydenver.com.

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