Denver shows over the past few months have been dominated by artists using representational imagery, both conceptual and otherwise, including William Stockman, Yoshitomo Saito, Enrique Martínez Celaya and Jordan Casteel, as well as the many participants in Month of Photography exhibits. But now abstract is back, both conceptual and otherwise.
One illustration of this: Michael Gadlin: Shades of Significance, at K Contemporary. Michael Gadlin is a well-known Colorado painter who has a high-profile side gig as a host on Rocky Mountain PBS’s Arts District program. Though he spent some time in New York while attending the Pratt Institute of Art and Design, he’s mostly lived and worked in the Denver area.
His show at K was curated by gallery director Doug Kacena, who's installed everything to its best advantage in the handsome, ground-floor showroom. The secret to Kacena’s exhibition design success is that he gives individual works plenty of breathing room; in this case, you can really see what Gadlin is doing. Over the years, the artist has blended traditional ideas about painting with more contemporary ones, and his current style has something of a retro gloss. While there’s plenty of classic modernism in these pieces, which are similar in attitude to abstract surrealism from the mid-twentieth century, there's also a dash of Dada, along with a refined response to graffiti assembled to carry out the complex and layered compositions. Adding a subtle illusion of depth, Gadlin partly paints over found imagery from the collage elements that lie behind the grounds; on top, he inserts his own vaguely defined shapes and, often at the picture plane, outlines of plants, flowers, geometric shapes and vessels.
Gadlin did some of the work himself, but more importantly gave instructions to the 32 eighth grade students so they could make the art their own.
When researching someone to lead the class in replacing the old sunset mural near the school's front entrance, Westlake art teacher Marleen Seckendorf was struck by Gadlin's work, as well as by a video she saw of him working with youth.
"He's incredibly positive and personable, as well as extremely talented," Seckendorf said.
The eighth grade art class started the mural April 1 and likely will complete it next week.
La Napoule Art Foundation is launching a pilot program with two Denver elementary schools to connect children with working artists in their communities. This outreach program, part of the ongoing show Do You See What I See? A Fine Art Experience for Children and Everyone Else, will partner Ashley Elementary & Park Hill School with exhibition artists Emanuel Martinez and Michael Gadlin. These artists will create work in the schools, demonstrating their own artistic process and encouraging students to explore art in new ways.
Gadlin and Martinez have worked with the schools to develop student projects that reflect their own creative interests. Gadlin is co-owner of ArtHaus, a gallery located in Denver’s RiNo district. He will return to Park Hill, which he attended as a child, to give demonstrations of his work with figurative collage. Students will create their own collage projects to tell their story.
A couple weeks ago i shared with you some of Michael Gadlin's works of art, his studio, and peeks into his journals. He is extremely generous, letting me dig through his art journal and pick his brain over art, his process, and life as an artist.
As I talked with artist Michael Gadlin in his studio in Blue Silo Studios north of Denver’s RINO district, a theme emerged: one of individuality, originality and risk-taking as an artist.
Gadlin’s late mentor, the sculptor Roland Bernier, would often repeat to him, “Michael, painting is dead. That’s why I don’t do it.” For many years, Gadlin thought this meant that he needed to quit painting and start making conceptual art. But over time, Gadlin realized this was not the case. “[Bernier] was wanting me to push– to push my painting. He wanted to challenge me beyond what was just throwing paint down from a design point of view onto canvas and hanging it up and being satisfied with decorating a wall. He was always challenging and pushing,” Gadlin explains. “You know everyone can get a tube and a paintbrush.”
The idea that “anyone” can be a painter seems to hold especially true currently. Any passing follow of artists on Instagram demonstrates a trendiness and similarity in the art being created and disseminated on social media. Artists see other artists’ works in their feeds and think that’s what they should be creating, but that doesn’t lend itself to individuality or trying new techniques and approaches to painting. Instead, it ends up being what Gadlin calls “the culture of sameness.” Thousands of artists creating similar versions of an abstract flower painting or landscape, indistinguishable from one another.
Gadlin, instead, is constantly seeking growth in his work, pushing himself to take risks, to try new things, to innovate his practice. To find his own voice amidst the Pinterest algorithms and newsfeeds that culminate in the “inundation of the same.”
At the one-year anniversary show, Young, Mattai and Zoots will all be featured. The other artists you can expect to see work from as well are Monique Crine, Michael Dowling, Trey Egan, Carlene Frances, Melissa Furness, Michael Gadlin, Robin Hextrum, Kuzana Ogg, Daisy Patton, Angel Ricardo Ricardo Rios, Karen Roehl, Jonathan Saiz, Kevin Sloan, Kristin Stransky, Nina Tichava, Goran Vejvoda and Sarah Winkler. And, although Kacena is a talented curator and gallerist, he is first and foremost an artist and will also be displaying work during the anniversary show.
KITCHEN TABLE TALKS - MICHAEL GADLIN: ART AS ACTIVISM @ MCA Denver
Kitchen Table brings together artists, activists, and scholars for conversations over dinner using the current exhibitions as a starting point for discussion. Dinners are free, reservations are required, and seating is extremely limited. Each pop-up dinner features a different host and a different theme. Tickets include admission to the museum, dinner, and non-alcoholic beverages. Beer, wine, and cocktails are available for purchase. The event begins with a walk through of the museum and continues with dinner in the cafe. Dinner menus are curated by James Beard Award-winning author and scholar Adrian Miller and presented by Two Sistahs Eats-n-Treats. Vegetarian meals are available upon request. Due to the intimate nature of the event, we are unable to accommodate dietary restrictions.
I find influence fascinating. It can hurt you or work for you. You’ve got to be yourself in everything you do or else you run the risk of really saying nothing in your work. If you have your own ideas (your own way of seeing things), good discipline and sound technique, it’ll take you far.
That said, there’s always a challenge for a working artist - to be current, relevant and yet unique - this can be a good challenge, however not falling for trends that you have no passion for.
Comparisons are a natural act of involvement for the viewer. We can’t help it. We all compare things we see and experience based on prior knowledge. Isn’t that why we create art, because of influence or inspiration and of course the need to say something that we hope is important?
He's the latest in a long string of artists who have participated in the organization's goal of introducing low-income youngsters to the liberating influence of the fine arts by inviting artists from the community to serve as "creative residents."
The Cherry Creek Arts Festival tops almost everyone's list of things to do in Denver over the Fourth of July weekend. The award-winning fest, taking place this weekend on the streets of Cherry Creek North, has been hailed nationwide by artists and buyers alike, and it adds a luster to Denver's growing reputation as a happening place to be. Though the festival's jury process was altered this year to allow for a more diverse assortment of art, only eight Colorado artists made the final 200-name roster, including newcomers pastelist Tony Ortega, blown-glass artist Linda Backus, painter Michael Gadlin and installation artist Brian Nelson.
In addition to the featured works, Havu has supplemented Landmark with sculptures by Jerry Wingren and a group of abstracts by Michael Gadlin.
Wingren, who lives in the mountains west of Boulder, is represented by sculptures displayed outside the front door and behind the gallery in the courtyard shared with the Grand Cherokee lofts as well as a group of small soapstone sculptures displayed on pedestals scattered through the show inside. The small sculptures depict houses and buildings, which is a kind of sight gag, since they're set among the landscape paintings. Taken together with Wingren's outdoor pieces, Havu is essentially presenting an ad hoc Wingren show alongside Landmark.
The Gadlins, which are great, are hanging upstairs. Though this Denver-based artist has shown several times around town during the last few years, these paintings mark his introduction at Havu.
Gadlin does collages and mixed-media paintings. The paintings are really well done, especially the large ones like the luxurious "Instructions on How to Move Mountains & Part the Sea," "Elements of Something Beautiful" and its companion, "Elements of Something Beautiful Outside." Stylistically, there's a retrospective character to Gadlin's paintings that is reminiscent of early-modernist abstractions.
Both Wingren's sculptures and Gadlin's paintings work beautifully with the Landmark show.
Artists featured in the show, curated by Andra Archer, include Darrell Anderson (who's also served as guest curator), Dominique Bargaineer, S.A. Bennett, Jordan Casteel, Ed Dwight, Michael C. Gadlin, Juliette Hemingway, Ron Hicks, Rochelle Johnson, Helen Littlejohn, Donzell McDonald, Ella Maria Ray, John Toms, Floyd Tunson, Jerome Vaden, Irvin Webb and Otis Williams.
"The show continues downstairs with a sweet Michael Gadlin, a nice Marshall Smith and a choice Amy Metier."
The opening of the Clyfford Still Museum last month has prompted a resurgence of interest in early abstraction in Colorado, from the 1940s to the 1970s. In the beginning, Still was way ahead of even the most advanced artists here — as well as those in New York. Some Colorado practitioners weren't far behind, however. In fact, some were right up there with such New York School luminaries as Adolph Gottlieb and Helen Frankenthaler.
One of the things working against Front Range abstract expressionists is a lack of documentation: Their exploits rarely made the newspapers, and exhibition catalogues are few and far between. In addition, most of the artists are now dead. On a personal note, I had the chance to meet and talk with some of them, including Mary Chenoweth, Al Wynne and Ken Goehring, all of whom are deceased. It was right after I had gotten out of school, and I didn't realize that I should have tape-recorded these encounters, especially since I quizzed each of them about the scene and about who the other important artists were at the time.
So at this point, although research is being done as we speak, most of what we know about mid-century abstract expressionism in Colorado is based on the paintings themselves. Many are dated, and others can have dates assigned when compared with them. This evidence reveals that some artists in Colorado were beginning to do abstractions of one sort or another in the late 1930s, and by 1955, there was a full-blown abstract-expressionist school here, with many of the style's earliest and most influential proponents working in Colorado Springs. The surviving paintings further reveal that by the end of the 1950s, there were scenes in Denver and Boulder, too.
In one quick year, Doug Kacena has turned Denver’s commercial art scene on its head, upending many of the current, common assumptions about where for-profit galleries are headed in the 21st century.
His new K Contemporary gallery downtown is thriving after just 12 months in business, and along the way it is revitalizing the careers of local artists and giving the city a fresh place to see, and shop for, some of the most interesting new art around.
No doubt, K is bucking the trend. Denver’s galleries are in sharp decline these days, squeezed by rising real estate prices locally and the international shopping trends that have moved commerce online and away from brick-and-mortar retail shops. Just this month, the Golden Triangle’s Goodwin Fine Art, a stalwart of the scene with 40 top-tier artists on its roster, announced it was closing its doors at the end of the year. Rumors are flying about which gallery might be next to go.
Among the recipients of an Arts in Society grant is Denvers Access Gallery which provides opportunities for young artists with disabilities by offering workshops with professional artists, including, in the center of things below, Michael Gadlin.
The granting world is divided into two general categories, and they rarely overlap. Some foundations give money to social service enterprises that provide things like education, mental health care, homeless shelters and food pantries. Others give to the arts, keeping museums, orchestras and dance companies in business.
The ins and outs of how money gets from the have-its to the need-it-badlys may not be interesting to most people, but the divisions do make it hard for a lot of valuable social service efforts to get the support they need — things that fall in the middle, like art programs that help veterans deal with trauma, after-school programs that teach kids life skills via computer drawing, and sculpture-making workshops that allow people with visual impairments to appreciate art through touch rather than sight.
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"Michael Gadlin takes the lead on the walls; he’s someone who actually exhibits all the time. The work included here covers a lot of ground, and the range is so broad that his section could almost be mistaken for a group show. The large paintings are the most important — not just because of their size, but also because of the ambition revealed in their dense, complex and heavily painted compositions. Gadlin not only does the kind of abstraction seen here, but he also works figuratively, as seen in the abstracted faces that make up his current solo at the Buell Theatre, Refugees Welcome..."
(Denver) Emerging from an enlightening two-month residency last year in La Napoule, France, Michael Gadlin has created a new series of mixed-media abstracts that examine a primitive and evocative fusion of expressive mark-making and tonal shifts. By combining painting and drawing elements, disassembled and reassembled, Michael re-imagines the interplay of raw elements that act as a deep vista of an imaginary landscape in his new show “Raw Marks”. The works are delivered on large paper surfaces, carrying a very thick, impasto like textural quality.
Michael Gadlin, host of "Art Scene," talks with Karen Roehl of Art Students League of Denver on Oct. 20 during a taping of the show in Studio D in the City and County Building. (Seth McConnell, YourHub)
Look even closer — smarter — and you can link in Michael Gadlin's recent set of oversize abstractions currently in the lobby of the 1801 California skyscraper downtown. He scavenges those same blackened forests for pieces of charcoal and uses them like paint, marking canvases with raw, dark lines and pools of gray that are incorporated with acrylics and ink into his creations.
There is something miraculous about the works by definition: He resurrects dead things, turning them into lively and infinite explorations of human consciousness, into the "eternality" of art, as he puts it in his statement.
But they also contain a narrative of important events in the West, less direct, though just as journalistic as the cowboy and Indian paintings of Frederic Remington and Charles Russell.
Artist Michael Gadlin's show, "Entice," runs through Nov. 15 in the lobby of the skyscraper 1801 California, the CenturyLink Tower. At right, workers stroll past the artworks in the background of the lobby.