Geometric abstraction, the almost mathematical deployment of color and form, boasts a rich history that dates back to such early 20th-century masters as Kasimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian.
In the past few decades, the form has hardly been at the forefront of a pluralistic international art scene dominated by conceptualism and new media, but it has not been abandoned either. Far from it.
A new generation of geometric abstractionists has emerged that is bringing a contemporary flair to this venerable branch of abstraction, often breaking from its traditional rigidity and allowing other influences to intervene.
Two such artists — Pard Morrison of Colorado Springs and Ted Larsen of Santa Fe — are featured in area exhibitions. Each offers an obviously related yet refreshingly different take on today's brand of geometric abstraction.
Morrison ranks among the state's most original and gifted artists, an assessment reinforced by the recent decision of James Kelly Contemporary, one of the top galleries in Santa Fe, to represent him.
Morrison clearly has an understanding and appreciation of historical geometric abstraction, and he manages to work within that tradition while still expanding it in fresh and appealing ways.
He is featured alongside Denver artist Patrick Marold in "Formal Elements," a show at GOCA 121, the downtown branch of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' Gallery of Contemporary Art.
Morrison continues to work with exuberant blocks of color (baked pigment on aluminum), but his constructed paintings and sculptures have grown considerably in size and complexity from his earlier creations, which were largely horizontal and vertical bands.
Exemplifying the artist's new, bolder approach is "King Pleasure," a 10-foot-wide painting that explodes with more than a dozen colors. It extends 3 1/4 inches from the wall and possesses an inherent sculptural quality.
Going further than he has previously, Morrison manipulates the sense of perspective, giving the work an illusion of even greater three-dimensionality, as though it were a series of attached boxes.
Also on view is an untitled 8-foot-tall tower, which looks back to similar pieces by famed minimalist Anne Truitt, as well as a group of four enamel-on-acrylic "Mutation Drawings" and a series of photographs that depicts the artist's abstractions in outdoor settings.
While Morrison, who served as a studio assistant to Agnes Martin, certainly owes a debt to minimalism, a 1960s and '70s movement that overlapped with geometric abstraction, Larsen is a kind of proto-post-modernist.
Larsen, whose work is on view at the Robischon Gallery, pays homage to classic minimalists such as Ellsworth Kelly in a group of constructed paintings, including Angle of Approach, a pair of attached red and white angled polygons.
Much like Morrison, he employs enamel on steel, but he breaks from the crisp, unadorned look of classic geometric abstraction by "framing" these works with a banal aluminum molding that looks like edging for modular tables.
The use of industrial materials was an essential facet of minimalism, but Larsen pushes this idea in Lean on Me, a 6-foot-tall riveted aluminum floor sculpture. Here, he seems to gently mock the pristine precision of Donald Judd and others with the piece's deliberately crude workmanship and rickety look.
He employs a similarly loose approach in the wonderfully titled steel wall sculpture Soup Montage, an off-square, jumbled mass of perpendiculars that again makes light of geometric abstraction's expected exactitude.
In a branch of abstraction that has often taken itself extremely seriously, Larsen injects a welcome dose of whimsy.
Kyle MacMillan: 303-954-1675 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Art. GOCA 121, Plaza of the Rockies, 121 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs (downtown branch of the Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado Springs). Paintings, sculptures and photographs by geometric abstractionist Pard Morrison of Colorado Springs are showcased in a two-person exhibition with Patrick Marold. Through Sept. 16. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Free. 719-255-3504 or galleryuccs.org.
Art. Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee St. Fifteen geometric paintings and sculptures by Santa Fe artist Ted Larsen are on view in this solo exhibition. Through Saturday. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Free. 303-298-7788 or robischongallery.com.