Show Preview | Contemporary Figuration

Denver, CO
Abend Gallery, June 12-July 3

Derek Harrison, October, oil, 22 x 28.

Derek Harrison, October, oil, 22 x 28.

This story was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

Abend Gallery is diving into the figurative genre with its first major exhibition of such works in 25 years. The group show features 40 painters who specialize in figurative work and includes both gallery and invited artists. The exhibition, highlighting 80 to 100 works, opens with a reception on Friday, June 12, from 6 to 9 p.m.

“Historically, figurative work seems to be better represented on the coasts…. We’re trying to change that,” says Connor Serr, co-curator of Abend Gallery. “We’re trying to tell people that figurative work can show in Denver, and that Abend is an outlet for contemporary figurative work.” Serr hopes this will be the first of many such shows at Abend.

Though unified in genre, individual works range from those employing traditional, classical techniques to experimental, mixed-media work. “More and more we’re seeing a blurring of the lines between illustration and fine art. With a lot of the younger artists we’re working with, there isn’t as much of a distinction [between the two], and you see the effects of design and Internet culture on their work,” says Serr.

Participating artists include Jane Ford, Teresa Vito, Zhaoming Wu, Derek Harrison, and Jane Radstrom, all from the gallery’s stable, as well as guests such as Tony Pro.

Santa Barbara, CA-based Derek Harrison is known for placing his subjects in natural settings, as he does in OCTOBER, inspired by a visit to his hometown of Steamboat Springs, CO. “Growing up, I spent a tremendous amount of time outside. Once deprived of it, I became aware of how important nature is,” he says. “The key element is the lighting. The colors of the grass, trees, and sky play off each other in a fascinating way, and when you put a model out there, you get these really unique flesh tones. You can’t get that lighting in the studio environment.”

Jane Radstrom, Crow’s Nest, pastel, 51 x 34.

Jane Radstrom, Crow’s Nest, pastel, 51 x 34.

Jane Radstrom photographs her models in the studio; however, she focuses on capturing natural, candid moments and the nuances of movement and facial expression. In CROW’S NEST, the San Francisco-based artist continues exploring the double-exposure photography 
effect that is becoming a signature of her work. In this pastel, she depicts a girl kneeling on a chair, her attention on the intriguing distance, and the same figure dreamily resting her head on the back of the chair. “The effect is used more for a narrative reason. To me this narrative is about imagination, play, and fantasy. It’s one of the few times I’ve used that effect to tell a story, rather than just to show movement and personality,” she says of CROW’S NEST.

Tony Pro, a signature member of the California Art Club and multiple award winner at Oil Painters of America shows, returns to his series called HER DAY OUT in this, his first showing at Abend. He’ll hang the third and sixth entries in the series, each capturing a timeless moment of beauty as a woman clad in 1920s garb pauses before a stained-glass window. Pro says he’s drawn to those momentary scenes so picturesque that “we wish we could hold onto that image a few seconds longer.” —Ashley M. Biggers

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