^
Keep Westword Free
4

Review: Paul Gillis Conjures Up an Enigmatic World Set in Both the Past and the Future

Paul Gillis: Otherwhere/Otherwhen Rule Gallery 3254 Walnut Street

Colorado artist Paul Gillis, though incredibly prolific, has kept a low profile over the past several decades. It's been five years since his last Denver solo, at the Singer Gallery, and a full quarter-century since the one before that, at the Denver Art Museum. That history alone makes Paul Gillis: Otherwhere/Otherwhen, at Rule Gallery, something special.

See also: Review: David Menard Fills Point Gallery With Dark and Poetic Evocations of Cities

Considering the clutch of major paintings on view, which feature Gillis's idiosyncratic approach to subject matter and stylistically refer to underground comix, viewers could be excused for thinking that they were seeing the work of a twenty-something artist. But Gillis is actually in his seventies, and he's been doing similar work for the past fifty years, since he actually was in his twenties.

One thing, though, betrays the fact that Gillis has obviously been at his craft for a long, long time: his incredibly accomplished technique, which took years to perfect. The divisions between the pictorial elements are crisp and sharp, and the pigments have been applied smoothly. Plus, his instinctual sense for color is thoroughly accomplished, with dark, rich shades dominating.

The paintings depict a fictional reality populated by imaginary figures and invented landmarks. The world that Gillis conjures up seems to be set somewhere in outer space, on the surface of some alien planet. In some of the works, architectural elements suggest an ancient culture, as do the indecipherable symbols the artist puts here and there.

But these features are juxtaposed with futuristic elements. In "Pchelovek," for instance, a huge domed structure covered in rows of arched openings is reminiscent of a building from ancient Rome. The construction looms over the picture, while in front of it, a shape that suggests a rocket is about to take off.

In many of the paintings, a robot serves as the key component. These robots have heads that resemble cameras. Often carried out in black or dark blue, they may function as stand-ins for the artist himself, since Gillis is a photographer. In the most recent paintings, the camera -- or at least its lens -- makes an appearance without being associated with a robot, as in "Do You Remember Me," completed earlier this year.

With the premature death of Robin Rule about a year ago, the fate of Rule Gallery was unclear. But it was Rule's wish that it carry on without her. So with the support of her family, longtime associates Valerie Santerli, Rachel Beitz and Hilary Morris are running the reconstituted Rule.

The Gillis show, which runs through December 6, is the latest in a string of credible exhibits presented by the three women.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Rule is located in Hinterland, at 3254 Walnut Street. For more information, call 303-800-6776 or go to rulegallery.com.


Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.