Art Review

Review: Plus Strikes Gold With Its Final Show, Jenny Morgan: The Golden Hour

Jenny Morgan: The Golden Hour Plus Gallery 2501 Larimer Street

Quickly heading to its closing date this coming Saturday, October 18, is Jenny Morgan: The Golden Hour at Plus Gallery, a small but compelling solo dedicated to this onetime Denver artist who now lives in New York. Morgan is notable because she is interested in doing something new with figuration, and the resulting work is part of the conceptual-realist movement in painting that's been going strong since the 1990s. See also: Painter Jenny Morgan Talks About the Process Behind Her Nude Self-Portraits

Morgan's chosen art form is the painted portrait, an old warhorse with roots going back to pre-antiquity -- but she updates the timeworn approach by deconstructing her portraits in several key ways. Morgan is an undeniable wizard at eye-to-hand coordination, and her renderings of faces and, in this show, skulls are staggering in their approach to detail. She easily conveys an almost photographic likeness in the depiction of her chosen subjects (typically women), including herself. Morgan undercuts her super-accurate renderings, however, by introducing the illusion of a gauzy scrim floating in front of the faces, or parts of them, so that they appear to be faded and smeared. The contrast between the smeary faces and the meticulously realistic hair or arms or other body parts creates a definite tension that makes the paintings eye-catchers. Another characteristic that gives her portraits their unique character is her choice to float the subjects in front of either indefinite grounds or, in one case, a graphic pattern -- as opposed to capturing them in situ in some specific setting. The Golden Hour has been a major success for Plus: Every painting in the show sold, a first for the gallery. But alas, it will also be the last, at least in this location, because after this weekend, Plus will disappear for an indefinite period. Owners Ivar Zeile and his wife, Karen Zeile, have sold their award-winning, Steve Chucovich-designed custom-built space, and the new owners do not plan to use it as a fine-art venue. This is a loss, because, as I've pointed out before, most of the city's commercial galleries are in converted retail or otherwise commercial spaces. This town currently has only three buildings that were specially designed for showing art: William Havu, by Humphries Poli; Space, by Owen Beard; and Chucovich's Plus. And next month, there will be only two.

Plus will remain an online entity while the Zeiles explore their options, which include the idea of reopening sometime in the future. But right now, you have only a few days to say farewell to the marvelous little space that is Plus Gallery at 2501 Larimer Street, where Jenny Morgan: The Golden Hour, the final show, runs through Saturday, October 18. For more information, call 303-296-0927 or go to

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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