Two exhibits demonstrate the transition from the representational to the abstract

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James Lambert Duvkullorna

Exhibits at Contemporary Arts Collective and Brett Wesley Gallery demonstrate how we get from the representational to the abstract. (We also asked the artists.)

James Lambert, “Duvkullorna”

All is buttery color until we get to the lower right corner, which has been scraped and smoothed down. An erasure halted? Questions begin to surface but, as is often the case with abstraction, the work — one of several at CAC, hosting the In-Between group show — intentionally leaves us in an indeterminate state. If ever we were to get all the answers, the fun and intrigue of the piece would be over.

Lambert: “The elements I use have their origins in more representational painting, such as atmospheric color and compositional arrangements that are derived from landscape painting. I am trying to communicate directly with some of our built-in ways of understanding what we see. …”

Lisa Rock, “Repeat”

The possibility of mechanical precision within its decorative pattern is removed because the dashes are hand-painted, without a stencil. Further insisting upon imperfection, Rock has splattered red randomly on the surface, like splashes of wine on a placemat or ink dripping from a faulty pen.

Rock: “I take imagery found from my everyday surroundings, such as fabrics, packaging, ceramics and signage. When translating these images into painting, there are often flaws and accidents in the patterns and designs. These imperfections are sort of a recognition of the hand, which I welcome.”

Reid Hitt, “Moxie”

A blue line zippers down an orange plane and gestures at the stubby, red, translucent shape. The zoomed-in corner of a subway seat and some signage? Perhaps an aerial view of an intersection?

Hitt: “Often the starting point for the paintings are drawings made on my iPhone, the colors are often inspired by people’s outfits on the subway. The forms often come from classic comics by Ernie Bushmiller and Fletcher Hanks … [and the] blurring of multiple meanings reflects how we perceive the world and live our lives.”

Mel Davis, “Arii Matamoe (the Royal End After Gauguin)”

Fronds of green flutter in the heat of yellow, magenta and strains of cadmium orange and blue — like vines of color and a tropical breeze captured and bunched up in a jar.

Davis: [The work] was made in response to viewing Gauguin’s painting of the same title at the Getty in Los Angeles. My version … feels more like a detail of a moment in this great work of art, but I see it more like a study for many future paintings exploring this content.”

Michael Wardle, “Beneath the Fray”

Thick tracks of muscled paint undulate under and over each other like multicolored roads. Thin splatters simmer on top, the skinny drips contrasting with dense broad strokes beneath. Visually, the work — part of Wardle’s What Lies Within exhibit at Brett Wesley — appears to mash together abstract expressionists figureheads Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.

Wardle: “Lately, I’ll start with images of people from my past, just laid out, quickly, just an outline or line drawing with paint, then washes are applied to fill in the figures and background. Late one night, in March of 1989, something happened, and I allowed myself to let go, follow the urges that had haunted me every time I started a painting. I sat in front of two paintings, “Watch Me Run” and “Monkeys.” After 15 years of a somewhat rewarding, yet frustrating career as an artist, I was home.”

IN-BETWEEN, by various artists: Contemporary Art Center, 107 E. Charleston Blvd., www.lasvegascac.org. WHAT LIES WITHIN, by Michael Wardle: Brett Wesley Gallery, 1112 S. Casino Center Blvd., www.brettwesleygallery.com.