Denver museums and galleries are full of shows worth seeing, including two that will close at the David B. Smith Gallery this weekend. Here are capsule reviews of eight to catch right now, in the order that they close.
Oatey & Gebbia-Richards; Fodness. In this pairing at David B. Smith Gallery, there is an extremely rough mix of two distinct sensibilities: Chris Oatey creates small, delicately rendered patterns, while Dylan Gebbia-Richards makes large, boldly colored all-over abstractions. The two very different approaches do have a few things in common; most notably, both represent non-objective compositions. Oatey uses an unusual method: He draws on paper with a sheet of carbon paper underneath so that the carbon transfers marks onto the bottom paper. Gebbia-Richards also employs an unusual method: He uses colored waxes applied with an industrial blower, building up the wax in coats and forming tiny repeated spires that come up high off the surfaces. A separate show in the experimental space, titled Donald Fodness: Duets, displays a funky mash-up of abstraction, surrealism, pop and kitsch. Fodness’s interest in merging lowbrow and highbrow aesthetics works well here. Through February 18 at David B. Smith Gallery, 1543A Wazee Street, 303-893-4234, davidbsmithgallery.com. Read the review of these two shows at David B. Smith.
Nice Work If You Can Get It. Once a year, the work of RedLine members is featured in a major exhibition; the current iteration, Nice Work If You Can Get It, is on view now. The show was put together by guest curator Daisy McGowan, who began six months ago by asking members to create work that deals with the collision of wanting to make art while needing to make a living. The artists' responses ranged from the literal to the poetic; some barely addressed the subject, while others were extremely subtle about it. Among the standouts is the wall mural by Sandra Fettingis that’s being physically demolished during the course of the show. John McEnroe’s grid of wall shelves with objects on them is extremely elegant and thoughtful, and what looks like an urban altarpiece by Mario Zoots commands the back wall. Other pieces worth noting include Tracy Tomko’s tortured self-portrait, Stephanie Kantor’s mosaics on a garden theme, Ramón Bonilla’s geometric wall mural, an enigmatic piece by Molly Bounds, Sarah Rockett’s gilded but rickety ladder, and much, much more. Through February 25 at RedLine, 2350 Arapahoe Street, 303-296-4448, redlineart.org. Read the review of Nice Work If You Can Get It.
You Already Know How This Will End. Michael J. Dowling is the subject of this striking solo at Leon Gallery. Dowling has built a solid reputation based on drawings and paintings — and now sculptures — with an Old Master-ish classicism about them that he intentionally undermines through additions and subtractions that he dubs “redactions.” He begins with traditional imagery — portraits, in particular, but also birds, animals and even a ship — then both erases and covers over parts of each image. This is conceptual, but it also creates striking compositions; mostly, though, it gives his work an edge that clearly separates it from the traditional-realist aesthetic to which his style is related. Dowling’s figures and representations often refer, at least indirectly, to art-historical precedents, especially those from Italian art. That said, his marks are so confidently applied and so unerring in their ability to convey pictorial content that his drafting skills appear to be something he comes by naturally, even with this Italianate influence. Through March 4 at Leon Gallery, 1112 East 17th Avenue, 303-832-1599, ifoundleon.com. Read the review of You Already Know How This Will End.Daisy Patton and Margaret Lawless. Michael Warren Contemporary, one of the city’s top galleries, often presents two exhibits back to back, as is the case right now. The star attraction, Throw My Ashes Into the Sea: New Works by Daisy Patton, takes over the front space, while its companion solo, Creative Destruction: New Works by Margaret Lawless, is installed in the back. Daisy Patton creates neo-pop paintings based on found photos (she calls them “abandoned”). The photos have been entirely divorced from their history and context, so the people in them represent lost memories, giving Patton permission to give them new identities. The results are inkjet enlargements partly covered over with oils. Margaret Lawless also messes with photos and uses them as the basis of her pieces, but she does something completely different. Instead of looking for anonymous amateur photos like Patton does, Lawless aims higher, using the famous photos of New York taken by Berenice Abbott in the 1930s and translating them into layered paintings incorporating collage. Through March 4 at Michael Warren Contemporary, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-635-6255, michaelwarrencontemporary.com. Read the full review of Daisy Patton, Margaret Lawless shows.
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Amalgamated Contemplation. The five artists included in this group show are mostly exploring abstraction, with a few of them taking a conceptual route to do so. Filling the entry space and spilling out through the rest of the gallery are Brandon Reese’s rustic sculptures in the form of lattice constructions and stacked totems. Reese’s three-dimensional creations couldn’t be more different from Roland Bernier’s paintings, but they look great together anyway. Among Bernier's better-known word-based works, there are also three of his spectacular all-over abstractions from the 1990s. These pieces are all-over compositions covered with marks that suggest graffiti tagging. Reese and Bernier are the stars of this show, but the three others taking part also make strong showings. There are Ben Strawn’s airy abstractions, some incorporating wire “drawings” rising off their surfaces. In the back are a group of aerial photos by Angela Beloian covered with web-like digital drawings in white; adjacent to these are sparely composed and intimately scaled abstract monoprints by Kellie Cannon. Through March 4 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955, walkerfineart.com. Read the review of Amalgamated Contemplation .
Westfall, et al. What seems like a major group show at Robischon Gallery is actually a set of eight interlocking solos. The first is Stephen Westfall, which starts the festivities with a bang: His fifteen-by-fifty-foot harlequin-patterned mural “Canterbury” dominates the front space. Don Voisine picks up seamlessly where the Westfalls leave off. Voisine orchestrates flat color planes with hard edges into an imagined three-dimensional space. In the viewing room, Lloyd Martin features architectonic compositions built with horizontal bars. The paintings in Deborah Zlotsky resonate with the Martins, sharing certain broad stylistic attributes, while in the adjacent space, Kate Petley takes the walls with her updated color-field abstraction, notably the magisterial “One Day.” The initial draw to the back is Jason Karolak, as Karolak's large, distinctively colored and graphically robust “Untitled (P-1518)” can be seen from the other end of the gallery. Opposite are a group of expressionist paintings in Marcelyn McNeil. Finally, Wendi Harford includes just two paintings in an alcove, but they are so tall they make for a strong outing anyway. Through March 4 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, robischongallery.com. Read the review of all eight shows.
Lumonics Then & Now. The eye-dazzling yet relaxing Lumonics: Then & Now: A Retrospective of Light-Based Sculpture by Dorothy & Mel Tanner transforms the interior galleries of the Museum of Outdoor Arts into a world of their own. The spotlights have been dimmed so that the Tanners' internally lighted transparent acrylic sculptures and wall panels, along with their projected videos, can gently glow in the near-darkness. A soft electronic soundtrack composed by Dorothy Tanner and longtime collaborator Marc Billard adds another soothing aspect to the exhibit. Mel and Dorothy were already established artists when, in 1969, Mel had what Dorothy calls “an epiphany.” At the time, he was creating abstract paintings and she was doing abstract sculptures. Mel’s breakthrough was the realization that they should add light, sound and, in the early years, performance to their conjoined practices, and Dorothy readily embraced the idea. Mel worked in this way until the end of his life; Dorothy, who is 94, is, believe it or not, still at it. This show is not to be missed. Through March 24 at the Museum of Outdoor Arts, 1000 Englewood Parkway, 303-806-0444, moaonline.org. Read the full review of Lumonics: Then & Now.
Audacious. Last summer, Rebecca Hart took the rudder of the Denver Art Museum’s Modern and Contemporary department, and Audacious: Contemporary Artists Speak Out, in the main galleries on the third level of the DAM’s Hamilton Building, is her debut effort. Although Audacious is meant to showcase objects from the DAM’s permanent collection, this particular assortment has been heavily salted with pieces from the private holdings of Kent and Vicki Logan. The largesse of other important donors is included, too, but to a lesser extent. Among the standouts are several works by American artists such as Philip Guston, Robert Colescott, David Hammons, Barbara Kruger, Brian Alfred and Ben Jackel. There’s also a big European presence, especially among the YBA (Young British Artists), who are now, alas, not so young. First among these is Damien Hirst’s “Do you know what I like about you?,” from 1994. Chinese art likewise plays a large role in Audacious, and there are even some Colorado artists included, among them Tony Ortega, Jack Balas and Viviane Le Courtois. Extended through May 14 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, denverartmuseum.org.
See more art gallery listings in our Westword calendar.