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Warm geometries: New work by Jose Bellver

“Geometry is something I always avoided,” artist Jose Bellver says. “I thought it was too cold.” Glance at the art above — clearly he’s gotten over it. There’s no chill coming off of the paintings in Scramble, his first local show in far too long. They are, by turns, playful (some incorporate glitter), spiritual and exploratory, their mathy precision not blunting their liveliness. Through pattern and repetition, these paintings seem to be seeking an expressive purity, “disconnected from anecdote,” as Bellver says, forms essential enough that “you cannot change it.”

Two developments made these new works possible. One, he began painting in encaustic, pigments mixed with beeswax. “It behaves very well,” he said. “You just put it there and it works.” (The wax draws bees to the windows of his Pahrump studio.) Encaustic has a long history — as ancient as the Egyptians, as modern as Jasper Johns. “It has a direct, primitive quality, which I really like,” Bellver says. Two, he unexpectedly came to terms with the Mondrian’s cool forms and Picasso’s cubist aesthetic (paint what is behind the subject). Living in Pahrump helps, too, he says: “It’s a perfect, clean, uncontaminated atmosphere. There’s nothing except myself and the universe, you know?”

The probing quality of these paintings echoes that of his career. Dial up to see the many modes and styles his curiosity and mad skills have led him to explore (and master). Then scramble to Scramble. SCOTT DICKENSHEETS

Scramble: New Work by Jose Bellver Jan. 25-Feb. 23, Donna Beam Gallery, UNLV, 895-3893. Opening reception, Jan. 25, 5:30-7:30 p.m.