Review: Two Distinct Takes on Conceptualism Fill the David B. Smith Gallery

David B. Smith has shoe-horned a pairing of shows into the gallery's early fall schedule this year, but that means the exhibits won't last long: both close Saturday. Gallery owner, David Smith, has brought on a new director, Whitney Carter, who recently moved here from California where she had extensive gallery experience.

For the show Ternion -- a word that expresses the idea of the work of three -- Carter tapped two artists she'd worked with in Los Angeles, David McDonald and April Street, while Smith brought in well-known Denver artist Bruce Price. All three artists do a type of conceptual abstraction, and their work interacts wonderfully together.

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McDonald employs found and ready-made objects, creating sculptural works that use a slapdash expressionist language to address formalist compositions. The strongest piece here is "Micro Macro," a constructivist form made of found and salvaged wood, modeling compound, and acrylic. It's smart looking with lots of textural and spatial interest.

The McDonald sculpture is in front of the initial back wall; behind it is one of the strongest Price paintings I've seen in a long time. Entitled "In, Out, Down," hard-edged shapes are clustered across the center where they seem to on top of a more vaporous set of shapes behind them. Price's dusty palette is marvelous, especially the dissipated powder blues that dominate the panel.

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The painting is at once post-minimal, and despite the pattern in the corner, post-patterning as well. I also loved the salon-style grouping of small Price paintings each with its own distinctive motifs, colors and compositions. Price has been rapidly moving and developing his pictorial language during the last year or so with these marvelous break-through efforts proving it.

The Street paintings, if you can call them paintings, are striking though it's hard to figure out exactly how they were made -- at least until it's explained that she paints a panel and then wraps it in semi-transparent nylon. The nylon creates a drape-like topography on the surfaces, and tones down the colors that she's used underneath. Perhaps most successfully expressing her aesthetic is the mixed-media painting "Delphinius (the charm of the fin is a mirror)," in which all-over dots of pastel and acrylic are veiled in black see-through nylon fabric.

In addition to Ternion, the small back space is featuring Joel Swanson: X,Y,Z that's comprised of word works by this Denver-based artist. Leaving the wall facing the entrance blank, Swanson has covered the two flanking walls with its own wall-mounted installation.

On one side, Swanson has painted the wall black and has hung a custom neon sign on it called "No/Not/Nothing" with the lights running through that sequence of words on a constant loop. On the other side Swanson has covered the wall with the word "level" done in very Louis Vuitton-like typography, and hanging in the middle a framed page that's been covered in rows of ampersands hand-drawn by the artists. Super smart and with a visual punch to boot -- as usual for Swanson.

Ternion and X,Y,Z close on October 11 at David B. Smith, 1543 A Wazee Street, call 303-893-4234 or go to davidbsmithgallery.com for more information.

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