Art Attack

 Full Frontal: Contemporary Asian Art from the Logan Collection. The normal stock in trade for the Denver Art Museum's Asian-art curator, Ron Otsuka, is traditional styles, but he's been drafted into doing contemporary duty by a gift that includes more than a score of pieces by Asian and Asian-American artists. The recently acquired booty provided Otsuka with the opportunity to explore new Asian art in Full Frontal: Contemporary Asian Art from the Logan Collection, now on display in the William Sharpless Jackson Jr. Gallery on the museum's fifth floor. Most of the standouts are neo-pop, such as Yu Youhan's "Mao Decorated," which is based not on the famous traditional portrait, but on Warhol's version. However, the front-runner among the current generation of Chinese artists, Zhang Huan, is not a pop artist, but a conceptualist. Huan is represented by a photo that documents a performance in which he coated his body with ground hot dogs and then had actual dogs lick it off him. The show may be small, but it's bold. Through May 23 at the Denver Art Museum, Acoma Plaza at West 13th Avenue, 1-888-903-0278. Reviewed December 11.

Malfunction Junction and Silent Sounds. The most talked-about new art spot in Denver is + Zeile/Judish Gallery, and shows such as Malfunction Junction, an installation by Susan Meyer, is only the latest reason why. This is one of two exhibits opening at the gallery on Friday, February 28, with a reception set for next Thursday, March 4, at 6 p.m. Meyer, a Denver artist who's been doing installation art for years, addresses the ups and downs of her own life using the metaphor of a roller coaster. The piece, made specifically for this show, apes the form of a coaster's supporting trestles, using wood and the track bed (though there are no tracks) outlined in lightbulbs. The analogy is pretty simplistic, but Meyer's monumental installation is completely captivating nonetheless. Silent Sounds is an exhibit of mixed-media paintings by Seattle artist Stefan Knorr. These paintings, which are essentially updates on surrealism, are composed of assemblages of found imagery from the popular media. The disparate and broken images are unified by abstract passages of paint. Both shows end on April 3. + Zeile/Judish Gallery, 2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-2546.

No Joke and No Yokel. This year's interdisciplinary program at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture at the Jewish Community Center focuses on comics as an art form. It includes a panel discussion, a film series and two notable exhibitions: No Joke: The Spirit of American Comic Books, in the Singer Gallery, and No Yokel: The Spirit of Denver Comic Artists, next door in the Balcony Gallery. No Joke was flawlessly installed and intelligently organized by Singer director Simon Zalkind. One of the city's most accomplished, ambitious and creative curators, Zalkind is normally interested in high culture, so it's a surprise to see how surefooted he is in this popular-cultural realm. For No Joke, he scoured collections across the country to find original drawings by such legendary historic and contemporary comics artists as Al Capp, Howard Cruse, Mort Drucker, Art Spiegelman and a dozen more. Tom Motley, who put together the No Yokel exhibit, also created a mural depicting the history of comics. Through March 28 at the Mizel Center, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-399-2660. Reviewed February 12.

Over A Billion Served and Hidden Images. The main winter exhibit at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art is Over A Billion Served: Conceptual Photography From the People's Republic of China. The show, which was organized by Julie Segraves, executive director of Denver's Asian Art Coordinating Council, brings together photos by eleven important conceptual artists now working in China. Conceptual photography is new in China, but so is photography itself, with the widespread availability of cameras dating back only to the 1980s. Segraves has divided the show into three parts: "Strangers in the Cities," which examines the effect of social change on the Chinese people; "Power Politics," which looks at the effect of the Chinese Communist Party; and "The McDonaldization of China," which is self-explanatory. On the MCA's mezzanine is an elegant solo exhibit, Hidden Images, made up of Czech artist Adela Matasova's minimalist kinetic installations. Both shows through May 9 at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554. Reviewed February 19.

Pard Morrison and James Westwater. Unlike the past few seasons, this year has seen only a few emerging artists who've broken onto the city's art scene. The work of one of the best of this handful of young newcomers is currently being showcased in Pard Morrison: Recent Sculpture and Paintings at the Rule Gallery. Morrison's aesthetic fits the mood here perfectly because his work is inspired by minimalism, the style of choice for Rule. His sculptures, some of which are wall-mounted, are made of aluminum patinated in beautiful, dusty colors. Formally, they are very stark, but the severity is offset by the softness and unevenness of the patinated surfaces, which are very painterly. In the informal Viewing Room in the back is a second, smaller show titled James Westwater: Narrative Works, in which the New Mexico-based artist continues his intellectualized exploration of an archetypal lozenge shape. Westwater uses this shape as a graffiti-like mark that he paints onto ready-made imagery of various kinds. Both shows run through March 20 at Rule Gallery, 111 Broadway, 303-777-9473.

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