A Denver Group Show Ditches the Theme

Artsy Editorial
Mar 13, 2015 4:40PM

From conceptualizing a theme to juxtaposing individual works for exhibition, curating a group show can be a complicated task. Unless, like Gallery 1261, you dispense of the idea of a unifying theme and simply display eclectic recent works by a selection of talented artists.

That’s exactly what the Denver gallery is doing for the 12th installment of “Group Exhibition”. In a world of high-concept art events and self-serious artist’s statements, it’s a refreshing gesture—the admission that there’s no theme, no strict parameters, that the artists are free to pursue their own predilections instead of trying to squeeze into a prescribed formula. Indeed, the featured pieces—including abstract oil paintings, quiet landscapes, and elegant graphite drawings—only have one thing in common. They’re all intriguing artworks.


Standouts include oil paintings in a variety of styles: stark and surprising takes on the classic bird portrait, as in Mia Bergeron’s Purge (2014), ethereal portraits of women, like Vincent Xeus’s Moment of Metta (2014) and Miss Sisley (2015), Derek Penix’s highly textural boats and figures in repose, Mark Daniel Nelson’s colorful street scenes, and Mikael Olson’s eerie but romantic greenhouse scene in Modern Eden (2015). Some of the oils border on abstraction, as in Quang Ho’s Winter River Banks (2014).  And others are so realistic they first appear to be photographs, like Kate Sammons’s still-lifes; Anthony Waichulis’s Late (2015), which depicts a familiar scene from a modern breakfast table as if seen through a magnifying glass; and Dianne L. Massey Dunbar’s exquisite picture of autumn leaves in The Fallen (2014). On the other side of the spectrum are delicate works like Robin Cole Smith’s graphite florals in Microcosm (Triptych) (2015) and David Grossman’s gorgeous trio of golden aspen groves. 

All told, Gallery 1261’s latest group show is an exhibition with enough diversity and depth to make you think twice about the typical group show tropes. In this case, letting go of the commonly held objective—the objective that all the works center around one theme or concept—keeps the spotlight firmly on the artists’ particular visual styles.

Bridget Gleeson

Group Exhibition XII” is on view at Gallery 1261, Denver, Feb. 20th–Mar. 21st, 2015.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019