Float through the dreamlike worlds of Barbara Takenaga at the Robischon Gallery exhibition

When the economy is good and the art is attractive, the gallery business can be quite lucrative. Of course, there are ups and downs like any business venture, but with high prices and 50% commissions, a savvy gallery owner can reap reliable rewards over time.

The way galleries repay this to their communities is by organizing interesting exhibitions of the artists they represent. The shows are always free and often excellent. They serve as places where people can connect over quality entertainment and – if they’re lucky – creative ideas, and that includes both serious art consumers and those without the intention or means to purchase works of art.

No Denver gallery does it better than Robischon, and its current four-person show is veteran LoDo gallery at its best. The talent is considerable, the curation authentic and the opportunities for local art lovers unique.

Barbara Takenaga is the star of this lineup. After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1978, she went to New York and became one of the most respected painters of her generation, winning a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship in 2020. Takenaga’s work is inventive, technically dazzling and, when you spend a few minutes walking around it, getting closer to it and then moving away again, exhilarating.

His power comes through balance and mastery of acrylic paint. She creates her own kind of abstractions, effusive and eruptive scenes that can feel like deep space travel, or deep sea travel, or maybe just deep reflection. She plays with dimension and illusion; it immerses its viewers, and not in the obvious way of those hip immersive exhibitions that trade in the reputation of icons like Van Gogh. Takenaga’s special effects are organic; they have a purpose.

If you are going to

The current exhibit by four Robischon artists continues through June 11 at 1740 Wazee St. It’s free. Info: 303-298-7788 or robischongallery.com.

In Robischon, Takenaga presents 16 paintings under the title “Outliers”. They come in different shapes and sizes, although there is something at the level of a personal masterpiece in the massive work called “BlueFive”, a quintet of connected panels that come together in one piece. 18 feet long, each bringing a burst of energy that resembles water bubbling and bursting in the direction of the viewer. They are ruptures of soft material that begin near the center of the canvas and emanate from its sides as drops extending into the atmosphere.

Of course, that’s just one way of looking at the paintings. It could also be stars exploding or volcanoes sputtering or perhaps a psychic imagination of what it might be like to visually experience one of those things. This is abstraction at its freest, and yet the paintings are equally contained and relatable on a human scale. Like the best abstractionists, Takenaga is capable of painting what one wants to see.

It is incredibly difficult to arrange paint on canvas – or, indeed, linen in this case – in the precise manner of Takenaga, to bring out of nothingness those lines, those curves, and those little dots arranged in patterns that imply the inertia, to space things out just right, to keep the edges so clean and confident, to apply just enough paint in brushstrokes and slurries, and never more than that, to create shapes that allude to real people or to real life scenes, but never give in to anything specific. There’s reassurance in guessing what Takenaga is painting, but endless fascination in deciding if you’ve got it right. The paintings keep unfolding.

Jae Ko’s wall hangings are made from rolled paper and colored ink. Most of the works in the exhibit are approximately one square foot in size. (Provided by Galerie Robischon)

There are other types of paintings in this set, works like “Black Line, Red”, which seem to be inspired by more tactile subjects, such as fabrics or textiles, but they are related in the way the artist paints them highlighting their smallest details and rhythms and constructing an image, where the positive and negative aspects of the scene alternate. Foreground and background are interchangeable, sometimes giving the works a 3D effect.

Robischon expands on Takenaga’s habit, using minutia to make big statements in assembling the rest of the current lineup, most notably with its display of Omar Chacón’s “Variaciones Chuecas.” The Colombian-born artist’s 16 abstracts are aggregates of small components of acrylic paint, individually made, dried, and then assembled into a whole. They look like groupings of small paintings that have been put together on a single canvas.

These works are less about imagery than about relationships between shapes and colors. Chacón is also about patterns and symmetry. But it is loose in the way it links its raw materials. There are enough irregularities in the arrangements of these pre-made components – they are far from exact; in fact, the show’s title translates to “Crooked Variations” in English – that they don’t come across as old-school geometric abstraction. They feel handmade, rather than processed or glued. There is a sensuality and a down to earth side.

This aspect connects well to the work of the last two artists of the show. Linda Fleming’s powder-coated steel pieces – some freestanding, others mounted on gallery walls – are swirls of metal that continually bend, twist and fold in on themselves. She brings a surprising fluidity to hard materials and, like Takenaga’s paintings, the objects seem to have no beginning or end.

The same goes for Jae Ko’s rolled paper constructions. These 10 deep blue wall pieces are lush in texture and rich in color. They feel solid and tightly rolled up but also fluffy and soft. They’re weird and foreign, but totally alluring.

There’s a daydream to all of the work in this exhibit, and it pulls it together like nearly every Robischon mix and match on its list tends to. But it’s an effect built on a complex process: All of this work — as Robischon presents it — is deeply thought out.

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About Margaret L. Portillo

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