Art Review

Review: Opposites Attract in Juxtaposed at Walker Fine Art

Through the holidays, Walker Fine Art is presenting Juxtaposed, a group show with an unusual mix of styles: It includes a fairly cogent collection of abstract work by five artists — and works by a single contemporary realist set improbably in their midst.
The abstract pieces begin in the double-height entry of the gallery and pick up again in the back. The opposing walls up front are covered in signature installations by Sabin Aell. Some elements are painted directly on the walls, like the staining across the bottom of both, while other parts have been done in cast acrylic mounted on top. Aell’s pieces are composed of simple elements carried out in a stripped-down palette — in this case black, gray, white and yellow — and it all works. The Aells are visually linked to the rest of the abstract section by Jonathan Hils’s non-objective sculptures, which are scattered through the gallery. In these works, Hils creates organic shapes from meshes of welded rods.
The Hils sculptures lead to the back, where Heather Patterson is represented by both roundels and rectilinear panels covered in shapes evoking flowers and accented by lines suggesting three-dimensionality. Adjacent are a quartet of Angela Beloian’s distinctive mixed-media works, some incorporating antique dress fabric. They look like inlaid wood, which they sort of are, since they’re done on — and in — plywood rectangles. And finally, this group includes loosely constructivist abstract paintings by Brigan Gresh.
Occupying the gallery’s main space, between the Aells up front and the other abstracts in back, are eight major paintings by Mark Penner-Howell — the aforementioned contemporary realist whose job is apparently to put the “juxtapose” in Juxtaposed. In these distinctive pieces, Penner-Howell sets a hyperrealist portrait against a recessive ground of text and symbols, and does so perfectly; the artist has a mind-blowing ability to pay attention to details. Some of the portraits address international politics: In “Wayfinder,” for example, a hoodie on a hipster stands in for a hijab, while “Excelsior” depicts a fighter pilot set against Korean and English type. Penner-Howell came out of a career in advertising but now focuses on paintings that place an updated photorealist depiction within a neo-pop context, and the combination has earned him a lot of respect. In fact, he’s clearly among the top contemporary realists in Colorado right now.
Juxtaposed runs through January 7 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A. Call 303-355-8955 or go to walkerfineart.com 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