Thanksgiving Feast

Two impressive shows highlight a cornucopia of historic regional paintings.

Several of the paintings in the show come from Erion's own collection; many more come from the important Dusty and Kathy Loo Historical Colorado Collection. The Loos, from Colorado Springs, made a fortune when they sold their Loo-Art greeting-card company some years ago. (What's making me think of the Harmsens?) The Loos are obviously connoisseurs, (though the Harmsens really weren't), and many of their paintings are the finest work by the particular artists. That surely goes for that spectacular Frank Vavra they've lent.

Among the most remarkable features of the show are several portions in which certain artists' work is seen in depth. For instance, there's an entire section devoted to New York artist John Carlson, one of the teachers at the now-closed Broadmoor Academy. Carlson was an early modernist, and his "Crazy Quilt Sketch," circa 1920, looks like a Cézanne on drugs. "The Barrier," in a myriad of blues and dark greens, is an expressionist masterpiece. Another section is devoted to Kansas painter Birger Sandzén, who was also a Broadmoor Academy part-timer. Sandzén's paintings are really wild, with a slashing brushstroke and an almost psychedelic palette of acid greens and shocking pinks. Although they were done in the 1910s and '20s, they look like '60s work. In terms of palette, and in the emphatic painterly character of the surfaces, the Sandzén paintings seem to anticipate New York School abstract painting.

A couple of the painters, Vance Kirkland, of Denver, and Charles Bunnell, of Colorado Springs, are bona fide modernists and abstractionists, even if they are not of the New York School stripe. Kirkland, as we all know, was Colorado's most significant modern painter of the mid-twentieth century; his work was loaned by the Vance Kirkland Foundation. The Bunnells have mostly come from David Cook Fine Art in LoDo. The gallery purchased the estate of Laura Bunnell, the artist's widow, and it's got a marvelous selection of the only recently rediscovered Colorado modern-art pioneer. There are several cool Bunnells, notably the cubo-regionalist "Untitled, Mining Town," an oil on canvas from 1933 that clearly depicts Ute Pass and Pikes Peak.

"Pueblo Series, Acoma," by Raymond Jonson, oil on canvas.
"Pueblo Series, Acoma," by Raymond Jonson, oil on canvas.
"Untitled, Mining Town," by Charles Bunnell, oil on canvas.
"Untitled, Mining Town," by Charles Bunnell, oil on canvas.

Details

Through April 22, 720-865-5000

Colorado Landscapes and the New Age of Discovery
Through January 6
Loveland Museum and Gallery, 503 North Lincoln Avenue, Loveland
1-970-962-2410

Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway

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The show in Loveland and the one at the DAM have a lot of obvious things in common. But the Loveland show also reminds me that it's full of things the DAM really needs and doesn't have. This may come as a shock, but aside from lithographs, the Denver museum has no meaningful holdings related to the Broadmoor Academy. The need for this kind of thing is even greater now with the new focus on Western art.

Here's an idea: The DAM should invite Erion over for a couple of drinks -- and make sure he brings the Loos along.

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