Denver artist Clark Richert’s career stretches back over fifty years, and today he is regarded as an acknowledged master of contemporary art in Colorado. Richert is best known for his mathematically-derived hard-edged paintings, and to a lesser extent, his related works on paper, with both types making up the elegant “Close Packed Structures” at Denver’s Gildar Gallery. Although long interested in pattern painting, Richert’s earliest claim to fame was employing similar patterns to create free-standing structures the size of cottages. They were built in the late 1960s at Drop City, a pioneering artist- cooperative near Trinidad, Colorado. The complex was comprised of geodesic and other experimental domes, mostly designed by Richert, and earning the group a Dymaxion Award from Buckminster Fuller. Richert’s Drop City experiments were well-known at the time, but then forgotten before generating renewed interest recently owing to Richert’s inclusion in museum shows like “West of Center” at MCA Denver and “Hippie Modernism,” organized by the Walker Art Center and Berkeley Art Museum.
The Gildar show does not include any domes but the title would seem to refer to them broadly, since the work that is included reveals Richert’s enduring interest in assembling tightly repeated patterns of flattened three-dimensional forms—hence “Close Packed Structures.” Although the exhibit is mostly populated by works Richert completed in the last year or two, there are some earlier pieces such as a classic intermediate version of his patterns in Rhombic Inversion from 1980. In it, Richert has marked the dark field with a precise grid, over which he has placed a system of bars introducing the illusion of three-dimensionality. There are also little squares sprinkled across the canvas that seem to be placed randomly however like every aspect of a Richert, their placement has been mathematically predetermined. The newer paintings, such as Central Core Cube (2016), are different, having brighter palettes and with larger individual elements. Also distinct is the painterly, hand-done quality in this painting that is juxtaposed with the mechanistic character of the overall geometry. The works on paper are also recent with Richert “drawing” them on a computer monitor, and then having them digitally printed with inkjets. As could be imagined, these have a more polished quality than do the paintings. The most recent of the pieces in the Gildar exhibit, dating from 2015 and 2016, prove that after more than a half century of work, Richert is still on his game.