Bobbi Walker's new group show, Horizons , consists of six interlocking displays of work by artists taking on the natural environment. Sometimes their scenic references are pretty vague, but there's clearly an association with nature, and even with the landscape tradition. Still, each artist is following a distinctive path: Some produce pieces that merely evoke the landscape through colors or shapes, while others create full-blown views of scenery.
The show starts in the tall-ceilinged entry space, where ceramic wall sculptures by Barbara Sorensen, who lives in Florida and has been working with clay since the 1970s, have been installed. The three-dimensional wedges jutting out from the walls are both architectonic and anthropomorphic, sort of like gargoyles. They're done in earth tones, including rich grays and browns perfectly matching the mid-winter shades of the trees and bushes outside right now.
In the next section are oils by Colorado artist Laura Guese that have a Japanesque quality. They're covered with repeated shapes stacked one behind one another, beginning at the picture plane at the bottom and receding as they rise toward the top — though most don’t get beyond halfway up — creating the illusion of depth without perspective. The limited palette of blues, purples and whites suggests waves, clouds or mountains, depending on how the repeated shapes have been composed. These paintings were obviously only recently done, since you can catch a whiff of linseed oil as you look at them.
Around the corner are blurry depictions of the plains under expansive skies by Derrick Breidenthal, who lives in Kansas City. Though technically abstract, they are also the work closest in sensibility to traditional landscapes in Horizons. They were also likely the inspiration for the show’s title, because their shared subject is the horizon line.
Near the Breidenthals is a wall full of photo-based digital mountain scenes by George Kozmon, an Ohio artist who typically captures Western views, often in the Colorado Rockies, such as the monumental evocation of Snowmass. Kozmon scans a photograph of the area he’s chosen, and also scans topographic maps of the same place. Using a photo program, he then blends the images, and also adds toned-up if naturalistic colors, setting the whole thing against a white ground. For these neo-pop digital works, Kozmon has printed directly onto plexiglas panels that are mounted out from the wall.
Opposite and adjacent are the much quieter and more intimate naturalistic abstracts by Colorado artist Melanie Grein. Because she’s chiefly interested in non-objective painting, there are no direct or even indirect associations with landscape imagery; the connection is conveyed simply through horizontal marks and amorphous shapes that get dense across the center. One neat feature of these works is the way that they are presented, mounted on vertically oriented, unfinished wood panels, the visible grains above and below the imagery adding another element to the compositions. These also have a Japanese feel, though in a different way than the Guese works: The light golden color of the wood and the delicacy of the imagery reminded me of the panels from a screen.
Finally, back at the front is a small selection of luminous, resin-covered wooden panels by Colorado’s Patricia Finley. Her medium is her message: She uses resin infused with colors that are poured onto the panels. In her statement, Finley points out that resin is difficult to control, making it completely different from traditional paints or inks. I once called her compositions “rudimentary landscapes,” which irked her big time, as I learned in an email, though I did not mean it pejoratively but rather as a straightforward description. This time I’ll just call them bare-bones: The works are simply a complex color field and a few economical lines. The distinctive characteristic of these would-be landscapes, which are actually abstracts, is the inner glow they emit, a quality of the deep, puddled, water-like effect of the resins that she uses.
Horizons runs through March 2 at Walker Fine Art, which is located on the ground floor of the Prado at 300 West 11th Avenue, #A. For more information, call 303-355-8955 or go to walkerfineart.com.