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Fine Art

Against blobjects

Philip Denker’s meticulous works reclaim rendering from a software-based world

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Philip Denker’s “Tuck and Roll”

At first glance, the matrixial shapes filling the walls of Trifecta Gallery appear sterile and plastic. Suspended on clean white pages are static mathematical mysteries, all Möbius strips and wormholes, in crisp renderings that perfectly articulate dimension and detail as only a CAD program might do.

But Philip Denker's show Stretch, Press, & Hook is far more complex than the creative application of some fancy design software and an excellent printer. Close consideration reveals a meticulous core structure of pencil marks that delicately support the overlaying web of inked line work. That's right: Denker's perfectly perfect shapes are drawn by hand.

Once you've picked your jaw up off the floor, the obsessive scale of Denker's project starts to hit home. Abstract and manifold, each drawing consists of thousands of tiny shapes whose patterning mimics the visual style of computer-aided 3D-mapping techniques. That implies that as each individual shape is rendered, the artist must consider how these shapes will synthesize in order to accurately (and perfectly) describe the final architecture of the completed drawing. Collected curves must perfectly form the arabesque of iterated cylinders that define Denker's two-dimensional structures. Endearingly, flawless lines nestle atop the fits and starts of erratic graphite, humanizing the cool, clean designs.

A recent Kansas City transplant, Denker is elusive in describing how the drawings evolve, placing the process somewhere between mathematical and organic before deciding on "nondeterministic algorithm." Before you start thinking that just sounds like a fancy way of saying "random," consider the singular completeness of each shape as a whole. Each drawing represents a contingent pattern where the function of each tiny shape is interdependent. The path becomes self-generated, fully realized and neatly contained within a unique, closed system.

The Details

Philip Denker: Stretch, Press, & Hook
Three and a half stars
Through May 28
Trifecta Gallery, in the Arts Factory
Other shows worth seeing
Mid-Century Modern. Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, 700 Twin Lakes Drive, Lorenzi Park
Mary Warner: Recent Work. West Sahara Library. Through May 31
First Open-Air Painting Day. East-side lot, next to the Arts Factory. May 15, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

These parameters could be why the final product is so very soothing. Many hours were spent generating these process-driven drawings, clearly a part of their fascination. But Denker's pieces do not have the kind of kinetic energy that similarly obsessive drawing styles contain. Works like "Untitled" and "Channel Mixer" are meditative and sidestep the hyperactivity of more termite-like efforts. Any possibility for chance occurs within the finite realm of the contained floating shapes.

Once you get the hang of the systems, certain drawings set themselves apart. "Half-wrapped" intriguingly strays from the repetitive matrix of the other more simplified geometries. The incorporation of color (based on found fabrics) is hit or miss, occasionally flattening a more vibrantly dimensional section to a simple strip of color. "Tuck and Roll," one of the best pieces, boldly forces perspective by combining color and dimension in a drawing that captivates just as much in close proximity as from a distance.

Stretch is an intriguing introduction to an emerging local artist. Much like losing yourself in a fractal, Denker's drawings hint at elemental building blocks that could describe a portion of what we all are made of, and in that sense feel quite natural for all of their artifice. In a society dominated by computer-generated blobjects, Stretch, Press, & Hook reclaims rendering from a software-based, design-conscious world.

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Danielle Kelly

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