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Review: These Four Artists Have Cracked the Code at the Sandra Phillips Gallery

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Codes are the focus of four artists who are showing work at the Sandra Phillips Gallery right now in ID Series. The featured artist is Sue Simon, who is brand-new to Phillips but has been showing in Denver since the 1990s.

During that time, she has continuously explored ways to convey mathematical and scientific concepts through abstract paintings -- something of a natural development, given her background as a scientific illustrator.

See also: Five Things You Didn't Know About the Sculptures in Denver's Burns Park

All of Simon's works at Sandra Phillips concern DNA, and she has applied the mathematical expressions of DNA over angular abstract forms carried out in a range of approaches, from smooth to wildly tactile; the latter approach strikes me as something new. For instance, in Simon's "Amino Acid Chain and Protein" (pictured), the composition has been divided into a mosaic of mostly rectilinear sections that have been filled in with a variety of motifs, including spatters that suggest the starry sky, varied monochrome fields and a heavily painted expressionist section.

All of these approaches are held in their places by expressed lines. Running through the rectangles are meandering lines that convey the chain of organic compounds referred to in the title, interrupted here and there by the abbreviations for the different components that the chain comprises. They look somewhat different from her previous efforts, yet at the same time seem like logical extensions of them.

Interestingly, collaborative artists Dana Kleinman and Ruth Avra, who work under the name the Kleinman Sisters, are also looking at DNA. Their wall pieces combine aluminum panels made by Avra laid over oil-painted monochrome panels by Kleinman. Despite the fact that the two create work together, they live far apart -- Kleinman in New Mexico and Avra in Florida. Finally, there are the super-sophisticated conceptual collages by Dave Phelps, who lives in northern Colorado. Unlike Simon and the Kleinman Sisters, Phelps is looking not at DNA, but at UPC -- the Universal Pricing Code. In "Corona," he's taken the linear codes from Corona beer boxes, cut them out and then arranged them in stacks on a pair of panels. As simple as the idea is, it really works.

I'll close on a personal note. Back in 2008, I was asked by Marianne Lorenz to jury the biennial at what was then called the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art. Then last week, when I went in to see ID Series, gallery director Sandra Phillips told me something I didn't know: I had juried Simon, the Kleinman Sisters and Phelps into that show.

ID Series runs through September 6 at Sandra Phillips Gallery. For additional information, call 303-573-5969 or go to thesandraphillipsgallery.com.

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