Minimalism goes west at Anderson Ranch exhibition in Snowmass Village | AspenTimes.com

Minimalism goes west at Anderson Ranch exhibition in Snowmass Village

When you think about "Western art" you may think of cowboy portraits or grand landscapes or ambitious land art pieces. Four contemporary Western artists are asking you to think about something else in a new Anderson Ranch Arts Center group exhibition: minimalism.

Curated by local artist Chris Hassig, the show features his work alongside photos, drawings and sculpture by Burnham Arndt, works on paper by Crestone's Sophia Dixon Dillo and mounted steel pieces by longtime Colorado Rocky Mountain School teacher Elliot Norquist.

"Tying all of them together was this concept of minimalism and a certain lens of western perspective," Hassig said last week at the exhibition opening.

The works in the show, on view through Dec. 8 at the Patton Malott Gallery, often paradoxically arrive at minimalism through extreme and painstaking detail. The show aptly takes its title — "…of sifting/flowers in the gravels/at the end of the ice age" — from a poem by Gary Snyder.

Dillo's extraordinary pieces mold and shape detailed patterns in machine-like detail on white paper, manipulated with a scalpel by the artist. Overhead, her translucent paper "Silver Clouds" sculptures cast shadows on the walls that evoke, as Hassig put it, the "thin atmosphere, harsh sunlight, crisp shadows" of the high desert.

Norquist's painted steel geometric shapes mounted on the gallery walls take a cue from large-scale land art installations, set against a desert landscape in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that he made early in his career.

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"I've always considered him an influence on my work," said Hassig, "especially in counter-balancing my tendency toward obsessive detail and the overwrought nature of things."

Arndt, best known locally for his mountain photography, showcases multi-layered ink and encaustic drawings of minute detail that echo the kinds of patterns you might see in leaves or blades of grass in extreme close-up (the Art Base in Basalt is hosting more of these works in a solo show in January). He's also fashioned nature itself — river willows — into freestanding sculptures.

"He spends a lot of time walking around and looking around and contemplating nature and living this monk-like existence with nature," Hassig said. "But he's a very deep thinker and he needed to have a show that brought him a little bit more into the public realm."

Arndt also turned Hassig on to Dillo's paper pieces (she lives at the Crestone Mountain Zen Center): "He said, 'Oh you've got to see her work!'" Hassig said. "It will scratch every obsessive bone in your body."

Hassig's obsessive tendencies are on display in the Carbondale native's mixed-media pieces. Like Arndt's work, they also take a cue from nature. A series of ink, charcoal, watercolor and graphite pieces draw inspiration from geographical strata models (those drawings where you can see layers of Earth as if it's been cut in half).

"Altogether, one can see how we've come from different ways of observing the world and making work," Hassig wrote in his curatorial statement for the show, "how we've been subtly or overtly affected by the landscape, and how we've each arrived at unique versions of minimalism that capitalize on its ability to create focus."

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If You Go …

What: Group exhibition by Burnham Arndt, Sophia Dixon Dillo, Chris Hassig and Elliot Norquist

Where: Patton Malott Gallery, Anderson Ranch Arts Center

When: Through Dec. 8

How much: Free

More info: http://www.andersonranch.org

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