Art Review

Size Matters and I Don't Feel At All Like I Fall

It's amazing how inexhaustible abstract expressionism is as an aesthetic ideology, both in its attenuated original form -- going strong for sixty years now – and in its heir, neo-abstract expressionism. Edge Gallery (3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173) is currently hosting a pair of exhibits that highlight this long-lasting appeal.

In the front is Size Matters, featuring four large paintings by Jennifer Hope. These are classic examples of abstract expressionism, in which the picture plane is filled with heavy brushwork done in a limited palette. They're good-looking and hard not to like.

In the second space is I Don't Feel At All Like I Fall, a group of non-objective paintings by Mark Brasuell that put forward a different sort of response to the abstract-expressionist tradition. Some have said Brasuell's style is difficult to appreciate, but that criticism whizzes right by me, since I think it's very easy on the eyes. His work is visually rich, vibrantly colored and expertly composed, which makes it invariably beautiful.

Brasuell takes an automatist approach to picture-making, meaning he lays out the composition of each piece instinctually, beginning simply with lines. These recent paintings illustrate a catharsis for him in the wake of an emotional split with his longtime companion earlier this year. "The paintings are complicated because a breakup is complicated," he notes, and you could say the paintings look like he feels.

Brasuell has been tapping his personal experiences for over a decade, but we'll have to take his word for it, because to my mind, if they're about anything other than paint, it's the landscape. This is especially true of "Field Freny" (pictured), which looks like it's based on a scene in a forest. But according to Brasuell, "The organic forms that show up are done unconsciously, and if there are recognizable images in them, it just happened. The meanings of the paintings only come to me after I've finished them."

These two worthy solos close Sunday, October 5.

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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

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