Art

Review: Space's Unintended Consequences Is Eye-Dazzling

Patricia Aaron, “Eyes Above the Waves,” wax and mixed media on panel.
Patricia Aaron, “Eyes Above the Waves,” wax and mixed media on panel. Courtesy of Space Gallery
Space Gallery focuses more on abstraction than any other art venue in the city. Although it’s not all that Space shows, abstraction is a perfect fit for the cutting-edge, custom-made building that houses the gallery; it also aligns with the aesthetic proclivities of owner Michael Burnett, an abstract painter himself — and a pretty good one. For Space’s current group show, Unintended Consequences, Burnett has brought together four painters and a sculptor. Each is seen in depth, which makes this exhibit more like five interlocking solos with the connecting link of abstraction, and the results are eye-dazzling.

A couple of the artists are neo-modernist, updating classic mid-twentieth-century abstraction through contemporary palettes and compositional devices. The impressive selection of Karen Scharer paintings includes “Crossover,” in which calligraphic marks sit on top of a ground made up of swaths of colors. Also in a neo-modernist groove are John Wood’s abstracts, with thickly painted horizontal bars suggesting the landscape.
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Paintings by John Wood.
Courtesy of Space Gallery
Patricia Aaron and Jeff Wenzel, two artists who are well known around Denver, move further from the established language of classic abstraction. Both appear to be in experimental moods, though their works here still display their signature styles. The Aaron paintings, including “Eyes Above the Waves,” all have a flat and sometimes velvety splash of paint on top of an atmospheric ground; this gives them an unexpected graphic quality. And while Wenzel’s works feature his familiar practice of applying thousands of marks and other moves, these latest paintings seem simpler than usual, if only because they are flatter. In “Tourmaline,” for example, systems of jagged lines in different colors are laid over a light-colored ground of cut paper with a bit of cardboard here and there.

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Sculptures by Jean-Pierre Morin and paintings by Jeff Wenzel.
Courtesy of Space Gallery
The last of the group, Jean-Pierre Morin, has created large welded-metal sculptures that have organic or figural shapes. Their simplified totemic quality and highly finished surfaces make them the perfect foil for the densely composed two-dimensional pieces, allowing the Morins to stand out despite the riot of colors and shapes all around them.

Unintended Consequences runs through November 4 at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive; call 303-993-3321 or go to spacegallery.org for more on the show.
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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