A pair of solos on display at Robischon Gallery delve into the field of conceptual abstraction, as both artists have created three-dimensional objects, not all of which could be called sculptures. Up front is Linda Fleming: Lingering, made up of recent works by this part-time Colorado artist. In the center spaces is Katy Stone: New Work, highlighting ephemeral pleasures from the noted Seattle artist.
Fleming, who maintains a studio in southern Colorado, spends most of her time in the San Francisco Bay Area, but she also has a studio in Nevada. She built all three herself, the first — the one in Colorado — back in 1968. At the time, Fleming was part of the artist community called Libre, which still exists with a core membership of residents. Libre, like the now-lost Drop City, embraced the idea of creating a utopian setting for art-making, and in 1968, Fleming built a geodesic dome for herself that has since been replaced with a more conventional structure. Her formal art training includes a stint at the San Francisco Art Institute and one at Carnegie Mellon University. She's exhibited her work since the 1970s, and many of her pieces are in museums and private collections across the West.
In some of Fleming's pieces, especially the older ones made of wood, there's a decidedly architectonic quality, so much so that some of them resemble little buildings or gazebos. But the pieces at Robischon are very different — almost insubstantial — owing to all the piercing Fleming has done to the surfaces. These openings allow negative space to play as important a role as the positive space of the materials themselves; they also divide the forms into linear elements that give them the feeling of drawings. In fact, the wall-hung bas-reliefs are like scribbles of shiny metal that appear to float off the wall's surface. "Whirlwind," in chrome-plated steel, and the similar "Cumulus" are like abstract-expressionist paintings, but with the markings of paint freed from the canvas surface.
The floor pieces and maquettes are similarly pierced, and they, too, seem like freestanding doodles. Among the most striking are "Portent" and "Fumerole," which look like gigantic lace hankies that have been crumpled. Both are extremely complicated formally, with a multiplicity of planes and emphatic lines of steel separated by fairly wide openings. An interesting feature of Fleming's metal pieces is the juxtaposition of "soft" forms and lines with the heavy-duty steel plates and metal hardware.
Lingering also includes works in wool and rubber, but unfortunately, one of these, "Puddle," which was placed directly on the floor, had to be removed, as it was in danger of being damaged by people walking across it. Too bad, since the soft materials it's made of provided a nice contrast to the hard metal sculptures.
As unusual as the Flemings are, Robischon has found the perfect companion for them in the conceptually related work by Stone. While her approach is technically sculptural, the way she organizes bits of materials and the translucency she embraces make her wall pieces look paintings. Stone does this by painting on fragments of Duralar, a clear plastic film, and then stacking up layers of it so that elements on the lower levels are partly visible in the top ones. She likes to use the same or similar marks dozens, scores or even hundreds of times in order to create her overall compositions.
Stone earned a BFA at Iowa State University and an MFA from the University of Washington in the 1990s; she now exhibits her efforts widely and has created monumental examples for commission.
The reconciliation of opposites is a key to Stone's signature style. The works can be simultaneously monumental and insubstantial. They look spontaneous but are apparently intentionally complicated in their execution. And they are clearly abstract, but at the same time include a suggestion of the representation of natural things, like leaves, twigs, or even, as in "Glade," a forest of trees.
By pairing Fleming and Stone, Robischon has created a thoroughly contemporary and magical atmosphere.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the impressive if temporary annex that I like to call the Robischon-ian. Last spring, Metro's Center for Visual Art left its longtime home next to Robischon and relocated to Santa Fe Drive; the move left Robischon owners Jim Robischon and Jennifer Doran in something of a lurch, since they own the space. They subsequently decided to fill it with inventory from their gallery while it's available for rent, and the result is museum-like. Too bad the extra space will eventually need to be off-loaded, but such is the business of art and real estate.
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Speaking of art and real estate, Ironton Studios and Gallery continues to thrive on a big chunk of property in the RiNo art district. This incredible facility was founded in 1999 by Russell Beardsley, Debra Goldman, David Walter and Mike Mancarella, who had met at the University of Colorado at Denver. Beardsley and Goldman have since left town, and Jill Hadley Hooper now runs the gallery and the marvelous garden out front.
Among the many studios at Ironton is Mancarella's Junoworks, which fabricates monumental sculptures for artists, including himself. Among Mancarella's large outdoor pieces are "Prairie Wings," an abstracted B-25 wing, and "Flight Ride," also about airplanes. Both are installed at Lowry. His most recent piece, "One Way," is a cluster of oversized arrows that's slated to be placed on Broadway at some point; it's currently outside of the studio, next to the Ironton garden.
Inside Ironton, Mancarella's solo, Direction: Airships & Pictures, is on view. Like "Prairie Wings" and "Flight Ride," the sculptures here relate to aviation, but in this case, it's zeppelins that provide Mancarella with his inspiration. "I've always been fascinated by old aircraft, and I think of them as metaphors for people," he explains. "Like people, they come into — and go out of — our lives, and for me they symbolize experiences." Probably the most successful of the zeppelin-based sculptures is "Indecision," in which a three-dimensional outline of a zeppelin is perched on top of a hunk of stone that sits on the floor. But others are also compelling, like "Jury," where little linear renditions of zeppelins have been mounted on the wall as though they are flying through it. In "Influence," a facsimile of a wind vane is made by attaching a zeppelin-inspired skeletal form to a found rudder.
In addition to the sculptures, Mancarella has included oversized black and white photos that are figure studies. The photos were taken in various spots, including Cuba, where Mancarella has traveled repeatedly. Though best known as a sculptor, Mancarella is chiefly interested in photography, and his degree from UCD is in that medium. When I first heard about this show, I assumed that it would be made up of installations that combined the zeppelin sculptures with the photos, but that's not the case. The photos are very nice, but, disappointingly, they have nothing to do with the sculptures. Despite the split personality in the work, there's definitely something about Mancarella's show at Ironton that makes it worth seeing.