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Multi-Colored Modernism 

Ring in the New Year with a DIY tour of exhibitions devoted to mid-century and contemporary art

“Serenity,” by Lee Chesney, acrylic on canvas, at Davis Dominguez Gallery.

Davis Dominguez Gallery

“Serenity,” by Lee Chesney, acrylic on canvas, at Davis Dominguez Gallery.

The brilliantly colored abstractions of Lee Chesney at Davis Dominguez Gallery make for a cheerful beginning to the New Year.

Gorgeous orange, electric blue and fields of pink dance across large canvases, some of them six or more feet high.

"These are monumental works in the abstract expressionist school," says Candice Davis of the gallery, in the arts warehouse district around Sixth and Sixth. "These are major works—this looks like a museum show."

Smaller gouaches on paper are painted in equally pungent colors.

Chesney, a Los Angeles-area artist who died at 96 last January, had big shows at the gallery four or five times in the last 30 years, starting in the early 1980s. Trained at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Iowa, Chesney was a longtime university art teacher and his international reputation yielded him solo exhibitions in New York, Tokyo, Paris and London.

Also known as a printmaker, Chesney "worked almost up to the time he died," Davis says.

For the current show, Davis and Mike Dominguez, the gallery co-owners, selected works from what they consider Chesney's finest period, the 1980s and '90s.

"These are some of the best pieces we've ever had in the gallery," Davis says.

"Serenity," a large and lovely acrylic on canvas in rich royal blue, pink, white and turquoise, demonstrates the wide variation in Chesney's techniques. In some places, the painter has splattered splotches of nearly dry paint onto the surface; elsewhere he's stained the canvas with paint so diluted it's almost liquid. But there's also a thick swath of cerulean blue darting horizontally across the painting.

The paintings evoke different emotional responses, depending on the colors. A few are dark and foreboding, with grim titles—"Requiem," "Le Cauchemar" (nightmare)—and black German Expressionist-style lines hemming in the colors. But most revel in pleasure. "Heaven Can Wait," for instance, a jazzy, lively canvas in pinks and blues, celebrates the joys of life on earth.

Chesney's paintings are paired with sleek modernist sculptures by Ben Goo, an artist in his 90s. Crafted luxurious woods and marble, the pieces are elegant and pared-down. The wall works reproduce everyday objects in various fine woods, reducing a sword or a lever to its simplest—and most beautiful—shapes; they become geometries of lines and angles and curves.

The marble pedestal pieces, by contrast, are pure abstractions. "Untitled," is an assemblage of satisfying shapes—a block, a sphere split in two—cut from the handsome white stone.

Modern Masters-Paintings and Sculpture: Lee Chesney and Ben Goo continues through Jan. 21 at Davis Dominguez Gallery, 154 E. Sixth St. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Open until 4 p.m. on New Year's Eve. 629-975; davisdominguez.com.

Right now in town there are plenty of exhibitions that proselytize for a cheerful contemporary aesthetic.

At Philabaum Art Glass Gallery & Studio, just south of Downtown, in the Five Points neighborhood, two glass artists new to Tucson are showing glittering color works in the exhibition Pro.fu.sion.

Both artists, Karen Bexfield of Santa Fe and Richard Parrish of Bozeman, Montana, work with cold "fused" work, as opposed to shaping hot molten glass in a kiln.

They layer sheets of glass one atop the other, constructing the piece while the glass is cool, explains gallery manager Alison Harvey. Not until the sculpture is assembled does it go into the flames, where the heat fuses the layers together.

In addition to platters, plates and bowls, all colored in luminous tones, Parrish makes hanging wall pieces. These tapestry works, as he calls them, have the look of cloth, with fabric-like patterns in angles or curves.

Bexfield goes one step further, sprinkling "frit"—glass-speak for tiny pebbles—across her glass layers. When they melt and congeal inside the heated kiln, the pebbles etch textures and holes into the glass. Bexfield goes for simple shapes—a sphere, a boat-like half moon. One of her pieces, "Luna Cerulean," is a gorgeous blue crescent moon lovingly pockmarked by the frit.

Pro.fu.sion continues through Jan. 28 at Philabaum, 711 S. Sixth Ave. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gallery closes early, at 3 p.m., on New Year's Eve. 884-7404; philabaumglass.com.

Poetic Minimalism, a lovely, spare show curated by Dr. Julie Sasse at the Tucson Museum of Art, takes an engaging look at an important 20th century art movement. Pulled from the museum's own collections, the pieces have "elemental compositions and sculptural forms." The show looks at early minimalists, as well as artists working today who were influenced by the aesthetic. The late Jasper Johns is one of the biggies whose work is on view; so is Olivier Mosset, an internationally known artist who lives in Tucson.

Poetic Minimalism continues through July 23 at the Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed New Year's Day. Open until 8 p.m. the first Thursday of the month. $12 adults; $10 seniors; $7 college students and kids 13 to 17. Free to kids 12 and under, veterans and members. 624-2333; tucsonmuseumofart.com

Conrad Wilde Gallery, in the old Steinfeld Warehouse, holds a closing reception 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, for the group show Erasures and Constructions. Known for its cutting-edge contemporary aesthetic, experimental materials and fine craftsmanship, the gallery is exhibiting the work of 10 different artists, including longtime favorites Margaret Suchland and gallery owner Miles Conrad.

Erasures and Constructions continues through Jan. 14 at Conrad Wilde Gallery, 101 W. Sixth St., #121. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Call before going. 622-8997; conradwildegallery.org.

At the Temple of Music and Art Downtown, painters Tim Mosman and Hank Tusinski stage a closing reception for FANAUX, their joint exhibition of Mosman's abstractions and Tusinski's latter-day impressionism. If you saw the first installment of this breathtaking show early in the fall, you should still go back. (See the Tucson Weekly review, "Garden of Earthly Delights," September 16, 2016.) The prolific artists have so many pieces that in November they replaced the first works with a whole new set. Start your New Year's celebration early at the free FANAUX art party from 5 to 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 30, at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. 624-7370; ethertongallery.com. "

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