The concept for the Gallery of Contemporary Art's latest show Colored by Process, guest-curated by Jim Robischon of Robischon Gallery in Denver, is strained. But the works themselves are more of what we've come to expect from the UCCS gallery -- gorgeous paintings, drawings and prints by a variety of well-seasoned artists.
Originally proposed by a group of Colorado Springs artists that includes Barbara Resch, Margaret Kasahara, Sean O'Meallie, Pat Dagnon, Jean Gumpper and Denver artist Jeffrey Keith, the concept of Colored by Process was to mount a show that demonstrates the many different ways artists approach the use of color in their works. This group also felt that the show's theme could be expanded by adding complementary artists to the core local group. For this task, Robischon volunteered to visit galleries and studios to find what eventually became pairings of artists based primarily on similarities of process (woodcut artist Jean Gumpper, for example, is paired with woodcut artist Karen Kunc, whose color choices seem largely unrelated).
This is where the show, as a whole, falls apart. Though Robischon obviously did an exhaustive search for ways to make things cohere, the pairings, with several obvious exceptions, draw attention away from the pieces themselves and onto the rather arbitrary construct of the theme.
In his essay about the show, Robischon shares his own misgivings about the presumed connective thread between the artists:
"Despite the abundance of information that the Color Group provided to inform my understanding of their work -- articles, statement and books that inspired them in considering the enormous range of possibilities -- I still struggled to find commonalties in their choices and manipulations of color."
Handing the task over to the viewer at the end of his quest lends an equally daunting task.
The exceptions are works by four artists within the show: Floyd Tunson, Sean O'Meallie, Ron Fundingsland (who are all grouped together at the entrance) and Margaret Kasahara (who's paired with oil painter Aaron Karp). The palettes and styles of these four artists are so uncannily similar as to suggest a much closer affiliation, if not a "school," based on an object-oriented-pop-graphic style that would have merited its own show.
That said, outside the context of the theme many of the individual works are stunning.
Pat Dagnon's oil pastel mountain and cloudscapes on sandpaper capture a seldomseen ethereality in the often pedestrian realm of landscape painting.
Jean Gumpper's woodcuts (which have been getting a lot of much-deserved wall time around town lately) include many brand new pieces that will leave your mouth agape in awe of her technical mastery and colorist's imagination.
There are duds as well.
Aaron Karp's monumental op-cubist pieces inspire little more than a nauseating color vertigo while Nancy Tokar Miller's memory-scapes look like depressionist David Hockney knock-offs.
The point? Great shows don't always have to have a theme, and the local work stands up just fine on its own.