Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, through April 30
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Great egrets, pink flamingos, and lilac-breasted rollers—wildlife artist Andrew Denman captures both the exotic and the everyday birds that inhabit various locales around the world, from Kenya to his home in Antioch, CA. Still in his 30s and a rising star, Denman shows his recent body of work this month in The Modern Wild, an exhibit at the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum. The presentation features 35 paintings and is the last stop in a three-museum tour that included the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ, and the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek, CA.
Denman brings a unique contemporary take to the traditional genre, causing some observers to label him a wildlife artist for the 21st century. Indeed, these are not necessarily your grandfather’s wildlife works. Although Denman paints a menagerie of animals, including antelope, leopards, and even warthogs, he is best known for his original depictions of birds in a signature style that blends hyperrealism with abstraction. His paintings may portray winged creatures in front of unusual backgrounds, such as an owl against patterned wallpaper or a wounded red-breasted sapsucker that appears to float amid yellow and blue rectangles.
In PICK UP STICKS, on view in the exhibit, Denman portrays two of his favorite birds, called stilts, which are striking black-and-white creatures with long red legs often found wading on the edge of shallow water. For the artist, stilts are an intriguing design combination of linear (their legs and bills) and curvilinear (the elegant S curves of their necks). The contrasts between these forms are echoed in the background of the painting with shapes suggestive of the stilts’ marshy home. The piece also displays his penchant for bringing a modern vision to the genre. “Not only was I completely disinterested in painting realistic grasses, but the bold black, white, and red color pattern of the birds themselves felt very ‘mod’ to me,” he says. “That suggestion sent the grasses spinning off into a Jackson-Pollock-meets-shag-carpeting motif and inspired the luscious 1970s color palette.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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