For a long time, Bobbi Walker’s practice was to fill the various spaces of her Walker Fine Art with a big solo, maybe two, and then the rest with a Whitman’s Sampler of what she had in stock. At the dawn of the current season, she changed things up and started doing coherent group shows throughout the place. Though I miss those big solos, her new approach of putting together artists whose work is interlinked by theme or style, or both, does make things flow better than they did before.
The current offering is Mark Makers, with gallery director Walker taking a wide-open view of what that phrase typically means. Not only does she include artists who do actual mark making on paper or canvas, but she's stretched the idea to include those interested in metaphorical mark making, elements that appear as marks but were not literally marked onto a ground.
The show starts off with that latter concept, represented by several wall installations by Julie Maren made of natural materials, typically painted, that “mark” the wall — not directly, but visually. The largest piece, on the north wall in the two-story atrium space, is “Botanica.” Maren has taken acorn caps and filled them with paint and glass and mounted them slightly out from the wall on little brass mounts. The rainbow colors are arranged with cool greens on the left slowly morphing into warmer purples, reds and pinks. The acorns have been positioned so there are waves, with the whole thing rising from left to right. It’s a great way to open the exhibit, establishing from the start that the show takes a wide view of what constitutes a mark.
In the niches that face one another beyond, the more literal kind of mark making — exemplified by putting a paint-laden brush to canvas — is on display. To the left are neofuturist compositions by Ellen Moershel. Though slashing and arching marks predominate and the marks may have been made quickly, the paint is strictly controlled and hasn’t been splashed around too much. Even more strictly controlled are the abstract paintings employing vaguely celestial shapes by Brigan Gresh.
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The back pair of spaces showcase some recent abstracts by Mary Mackey, who only recently was taken on by Walker. Mackey is showing watercolors reduced to tones and shadows, with extensive areas of bare paper dominating their appearance. These works have a classic modernist look to them. On the opposite side are a lineup of Patricia Finley’s handsome resin paintings that include all-over compositions made up of linear drips against deeply colored grounds. Finishing off this section are dreamy abstracts in pale colors by Ana Zanic that have a floral vibe.
The greatest stretch of the phrase “mark makers” has to be sculptor Brandon Reese, unless you think of three-dimensional work as marking space, which I guess it does. Reese often combines materials in novel ways, as in “Jakin” and “Dove Returned,” in which he uses carved wood and ceramics in single pieces, with the clay parts mounted on top of the wooden ones. The Reese sculptures are placed throughout the show, and they work with the pieces on the walls both because they have an earthy feel, so they are visually quiet, and because, like everything else in the show, they are abstracts.
Gallery director Walker might have been a little loose in applying the definition of mark makers, but the results are pretty tight.
Mark Makers runs through July 7 at Walker Fine Arts, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A (entrance on Cherokee Street). Call 303-355-8955 or go to Walker Fine Art's website for more information.