Review: Layered Takes in Alternative Facts at Space Gallery

“Midnight Afternoon," by Diane Cionni, ink, polymer, copperplate on paper.EXPAND
“Midnight Afternoon," by Diane Cionni, ink, polymer, copperplate on paper.
Jay Hirschfeld

The summer group show at Space Gallery, with the provocative title Alternative Facts, is a clutch of four solos that unfold in the enormous gallery. Despite the implications of the show’s title, there is little political content in the works included aside from a few pieces by artist Ian McLaughlin.

McLaughlin is known for densely composed nature-based abstractions made up of a riot of shapes inspired by plants, rocks, clouds and other natural objects and carried out in bold colors. All of these characteristics are in the political works, but he’s added some unexpected dystopian content. One such painting, “Field of Dreams,” is a take-off on the American flag, with stripes running across the top half and a grid of stars hanging below. But there are also passages that suggest urban grit, and, more pointedly, shapes evocative of members of the KKK. Even more surprising, coming from McLaughlin, are the grotesque masks he hung in association with the political paintings.

“Field of Dreams," Ian McLaughlin, acrylic on canvas.
“Field of Dreams," Ian McLaughlin, acrylic on canvas.
Ian McLaughlin

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There's also a nice selection of the artist's signature organic abstractions, which have awkward compositions – and I mean that in a good way. These classic McLaughlins allow for a fairly smooth transition to the exhibit’s next section, which is given over to Taiko Chandler. A printmaker, Chandler has been exploring how to break out of the medium's structure, and has done so by creating installations made up of gigantic prints, notably “Flowing,” an enormous wall piece done in monotype on Tyvek. It takes an unusual form, kind of like an island, with jagged edges and pierced portions, and it rises up off the wall in a complex lumps-and-hollows surface effect. For the monotype printing, Chandler has used a range of rich, dark blues that results in a luxurious appearance. It’s clearly one of the high points of Alternative Facts.

“Flowing," Taiko Chandler, monotype on Tyvek.EXPAND
“Flowing," Taiko Chandler, monotype on Tyvek.
Courtesy of Space Gallery

Both McLaughlin and Chandler stack images – one on top of another, and one next to another – until the entire picture plane is as full as possible. And that brings us to Diane Cionni, who specializes in works whose compositions are created out of colliding and overlapping patterns, both geometric, with linear solids like pyramids, and organic, like honeycombs. These patterns are individually articulated and come together to form the abstractions. An interesting feature of these works is the way Cionni has defined an inner framework within the pictures in which most of the visual material is held in check, but with a stray element violating it here and there. Cionni uses ink, polymers and copperplate printing to make these exquisitely crafted works on paper.

“Entrance," by Skyler McGee, encaustic, watercolor and graphite on paper.EXPAND
“Entrance," by Skyler McGee, encaustic, watercolor and graphite on paper.
Skyler McGee

Upstairs is the work of Skyler McGee, the last of the Alternative Facts quartet, and the transition from Cionni is seamless. McGee uses representational imagery more than the others in the show, but she does it in such a way that its recognizability recedes behind the overall formal composition of colored blocks and fields. She also isolates renderings of things like flowers and shells, which makes them less recognizable, and uses them as though they were abstract or conventionalized shapes. McGee also employs patterns suggestive of old wallpaper, a technique that sometimes unifies the otherwise disparate components she’s gathered up to create her compositions.

Alternative Facts closes on August 12 at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive. Call 303-993-3321 or visit Space Gallery online.

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