Indoor Activities

The 2003-2004 art season has only just begun.

It's hardly news that Denver is a sports town -- think of all the money the city has thrown at its professional sports teams in recent years -- but this is something of an art town, too.

Those of us in the visual arts march to a different drummer than do most of our jock-crazed neighbors who don't give a hoot about beauty. Though we may find ourselves in a distinct minority, there are enough of us to engender our own values, customs and events -- lots and lots of events. The volume of attractions is positively daunting here on the cusp of the new exhibition cycle. So now, as it begins to unfold, is a good time to get a glimpse of the first leg of this season's art parade -- before we get run over by it, overwhelmed with all the possibilities.

Overwhelmed -- or, more properly, overwhelming -- is an apt description of the upcoming El Greco to Picasso from the Phillips Collection at the DAM (100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000), set to open on October 4. We're in masterpiece country here, with major works not only by El Greco and Picasso, but also by such luminaries as Van Gogh, Cézanne and Matisse, among a heavenly host of others. The DAM is hyping the exhibit as the most important painting show ever presented in Denver -- and having seen images of some of the pieces that will be included, I guarantee the hype is right on the mark.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Sculptor of the Gilded Age opened a couple of weeks ago, and for those interested in the Beaux Arts style of the turn of the last century, the rewards are great. The two-part exhibit is being jointly presented by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581) and the American Numismatic Association (818 North Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs, 1-719-632-2646), conveniently located right next door.

Making the drive to Pueblo and back takes the better part of a day, but considering the attractions this fall at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center (210 North Santa Fe Avenue, Pueblo, 1-719-295-7200), it might make sense anyway. The appeal is a quintet of top-notch shows. First is John Buck: A Selection of Prints, which also includes recent sculptures by the nationally known Montana artist. Next is Jean Gumpper: Recent Work, focusing on the Colorado Springs-based artist's woodcuts. Also on display is Bruce Hilvitz: Nancy Boy, which examines serigraphs by a Pueblo native who just returned after living in New York and San Francisco. The final three shows are really parts of the same, all focusing on a single artist, the late New Mexico printmaker Gene Kloss. They are Gene Kloss: A Centennial Tribute; Gene Kloss: The Early Years; and Gene Kloss Drawings. All five shows at the Sangre de Cristo are already open.

Closer to home is Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art (1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554), which is presenting the provocatively titled BLOOD: Lines & Connections. The exhibit, which opens on October 3, showcases political art from far away, including selections from a host of obscure, if established, artists, such as Mexico's Minerva Cuevas, Zhang Huan from China, and the Ukraine's Victor Sydorenko. The exhibit does include the work of one famous artist, Yoko Ono, who, as we all know, hails from the good old U.S.A. The MCA is also hosting a pair of off-site shows: The Dikeou Collection, which highlights contemporary art collected by Devon and Pany Dikeou; and middle ground, a group of recent paintings by Denver artist Stephen Batura.

Other Denver-area art centers and museums are also in the thick of the fall-exhibition crush; several of them take a look at multiculturalism. Metro's Center for the Visual Arts (1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207) just unveiled Borderlands, which addresses Hispanic art from the American Southwest and northern Mexico. The Museo de las Américas (861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401) recently opened Miradas del Arte Mexicano/A Vision of Mexican Art, which has a wide variety of media by some of the best-known Mexican artists of the contemporary period, including Francisco Toledo, Alfredo Castañeda and some three dozen others.

Another show with an international mood is Symbols of the Big Bang at the Singer Gallery at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture (350 South Dahlia Street, 303-399-2660), which opened last weekend. It's an exhibition made up of recent efforts by the collaborative team of Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, the premier Russian emigré artists in this country. Organized with the cooperation of LoDo's Sloane Gallery, the Denver representative for Komar and Melamid, the show explores the connections between creation myths and the big-bang theory.

The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities (6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200) has two compelling solos opening this weekend. On the top floor is Debbie Masuoka: Big Hare: Ceramic Sculpture, made up of monumental rabbit heads created by the former Colorado artist who now lives in Nebraska. In the main gallery is Frank Sampson Retrospective; it's one of the most anticipated shows of the season, because it features one of Colorado's acknowledged masters. Frank Sampson features the University of Colorado professor emeritus's paintings from the '50s to the present. Sampson is also the subject of Frank Sampson: Recent Work, presented in one of the city's top commercial venues, the Sandy Carson Gallery (760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585). The Sampson show is paired with Virginia Folkestad, featuring the Castle Rock artist's well-known installations. The two shows open on September 12. Coming up later this fall will be Floyd Tunson, which will include abstract paintings by the famous Manitou Springs-based artist.

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