In their first exhibition of the 2020s, Robischon Gallery presented Equal, the work of famed artist Richard Serra, along with several other practitioners of abstraction. New York artists Don Voisine and Stephen Westfall, along with Colorado artists Kate Petley and Derrick Velasquez, showed that abstract art, and especially minimalism, maintains its appeal.
Upon entering the white cube of the gallery, the first works visible are the black square compositions of Richard Serra. After gaining notoriety in the 1960s for his molten lead performances, Serra built a career with massive COR-TEN steel sculptures that became desired by significant institutions around the world. Even the Denver Art Museum possesses one of his steel sculptures, but it rests hidden in the jagged walls of the Hamilton Building.
In this series, titled Equal, a sequence of large sheets of paper painted black with Paintstik and silica floated on the walls in vertically opposed pairs. These prints correspond with another work by Serra of the same title at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. With stacked pairs of steel cubes, the installation represents a three-dimensional expression of the prints at Robischon. Each pair had slightly different dimensions, yet they occupied the same amount of space on the walls. Keeping in mind the title of the series, these works play with ideas of equality in their different compositions.
Minimalism can be difficult to read but analyzing the works from Equal in a wider context opens a window into their significance. Each individual piece has perfect rectilinear forms with a texture like unfinished asphalt pavement. Such an industrial quality characterizes most of his other work, exploring the beauty in order and geometry. From a distance, the blackness of each rectangle is like a void sucking in the spotlights. On closer inspection, each painting reveals a wider spectrum of color in the reflective quality of the material and even sparkles in the bright gallery lighting.
Although the show itself displayed a cohesive theme, each artist explores abstraction and geometry in their own styles. In contrast to the dark and repetitive nature of Equal, the paintings by Voisine display hard, often diagonal lines and thoughtful use of colors. Westfall brings a playful spirit with his colors and brushwork. While the geometric patterns are seamlessly delineated, his expressive style comes through in the texture of each painting.
On the other side of the gallery, the works of Colorado artists Velasquez and Petley shared a smaller space. Velasquez presents an inspiring use of materials, with stacked strips of vinyl and wood to create a pleasantly harmonious assemblage. His works straddle the boundary of two-dimensional and three-dimensional, between painting and sculpture. In that way, they make an indirect connection to the works of Serra but remain unique in their approach. Petley also explores the relationship between medium and dimension with her vibrant paintings of abstracted and reflective folding forms.
Robischon Gallery makes noteworthy contemporary art accessible to Denver audiences. Situated just two blocks from Union Station, the location makes for an easy walk from campus or public transportation.
Visit Robischon Gallery at 1740 Wazee St. for other exhibitions