Various Venues, Denver

One of the more striking and worth­while group shows of recent months in the Denver area could be seen in May and June at The Gallery, which has established a reputation for the new and the provocative. Seven artists, all under forty, let the public have a look at a fairly large selection of their current work, some of which is highly original and disturbing in a good sense. The seven artists were Luis Eades, Roger Kotoske, Robert Mangold, Gene Matthews, Roland Reiss, Herman Sny­der and DeWain Valentine. (By what was probably an oversight, some can­vases of the admirable Spanish painter Tharrats were also on display, perhaps left over from an earlier exhibit. These afforded a point of contrast from which to gauge the strength and originality of certain works of the exhibit­ing seven, as well as their shortcomings.)

The main tendency of the paintings exhibited was to sound a retreat from the conventions of a two-dimensional surface, and by various devices, some very cunning and surprising, to add the resources of a third dimension, normally reserved for sculptors, and es­pecially, workers in bas-relief. The most sustained efforts in this direction were two works by Kotoske on concave sur­faces, consisting of a series of semi-­detached wiry forms streaming out from a central point, suggestive of a pair of spider webs blown into a con­cave space. Both were brilliantly pig­mented, but impressed one more for their structural novelty than for their merit as painting.

Also veering in the direction of sculp­ture were a pair of constructs by Ro­land Reiss, actually two large abstract retablos, called Texas Ranger; they were essentially huge polygons, painted in bright colors, but surfaced in such a way that the interplay of different planes athwart the main play of the wall provided much of the work’s interest.

Still another species of flattened sculpture was provided by DeWain Val­entine in the form of a large plastic figure that suggested a sort of flat­tened and elaborated totem pole.

The most successful and beautiful pieces in the show were a series of essentially bas-relief works by Kotoske. These each consisted of a large central section of interwoven wooden cross-­strips, surrounded on four sides by flat smooth areas of the same wood. The interwoven areas appeared to con­sist partly of wood, partly of metal, subtly treated in different hues and values of just a few colors. The only comparable works that came to mind were the abstract grill sculpture of Bertoia, but the smallness of scale of Kotoske’s compositions brought forth a delicacy and lyricism of a truly original kind.

Much that was to be seen at this show was intensely raw, vivid, and eye-­filling, but perhaps lacking in the qualities that invite the spectator to live with a work and contemplate it with growing pleasure over an extended period. The emotional intensity of the several stray Tharrats on the premises made one wonder if these young artists had not paid too high a price for their monumentality and their drive to se­cure for painting the spatial resources of abstract sculpture.

Joseph Frank