Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows.

A Visual Voice. Though not a full-blown retrospective, A Visual Voice: The Language of Herbert Bayer is a significant exhibit. Bayer, one of one of the most important artists who ever lived and worked in the state, was first a student and then a master at the Bauhaus, the early-twentieth-century art school that was closed by the Nazis. After fleeing the Holocaust, Bayer eventually settled in Aspen, where he became a key figure in the town's rebirth, designing the Aspen Institute and its related facilities. The exhibit focuses on Bayer's Colorado period, but there are also pieces dating back to his days in Germany. Lisa Spivak, director of the Steele, put together A Visual Voice with loans from the Bayer family, Hugo Anderson's Emil Nelson Gallery and Denver collectors Jill A. Wiltse and H. Kirk Brown III. In addition to the vintage works, a new sculpture based on an old maquette is displayed on the campus green outside the gallery. Through October 1 at the Philip J. Steele Gallery at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, 1600 Pierce Street, Lakewood, 303-753-6046.

Andy Warhol's Dream America. Hot on the heels of its smash hit, Chihuly, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is presenting yet another blockbuster devoted to the work of a household name in contemporary art: Andy Warhol's Dream America. The exhibition was curated by Ben Mitchell of Wyoming's Nicolaysen Museum. The more than 100 prints -- on loan from the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation -- survey the pop pioneer's career from the late '60s to 1986, the year before he died. There are many iconic Warhol images included, such as his depictions of soup cans, shoes, Marilyn, Jackie and Mao. More than any other pop artist of his generation, Warhol anticipated the art of today by working not only in traditional media, such as the prints in this show, but also in film and performance. As an added bonus, the CSFAC is also presenting Ron Brasch Collection of Contemporary Art, which includes prints, paintings and sculptures by some of the biggest names in art of the past fifty years. Brasch through October 16, Warhol through December 31 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581.

2005 Biennial BLOW OUT. This is the third in a series of biennials presented at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art. In the past, participation in these biennials was limited to artists from around here; for the 2005 version, it's been expanded to include artists working in most of the Western states. Despite this, artists from Colorado still dominate the show: Six of the ten chosen by celebrity juror Kenny Schachter live in our state. These six, most from Denver, are Louisa Armbrust, who's exhibiting digital drawings; Patti Hallock, color photos; Susan Meyer, a wood-and-metal installation; Jason Patz, color digital lightjet prints; David Sharpe, pinhole photos; and Jeff Starr, painted ceramic sculptures. Sherlock Terry from New Mexico is showing lenticular photos. The other three, all from Arizona, are: Angela Ellsworth, embroidered paper napkins; Denis Gillingwater, installation with closed-circuit TV; and Jessica James Lansdon, a mixed-media installation in contact paper and yarn. Controversies aside, the show looks great. Through September 25 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554. Reviewed July 14.

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Fulland PLANNING.ABSTRACT. Denver painter Bruce Price is clearly Colorado's preeminent post-minimalist, as proved by the recent batch of fabulous creations in FULL: New Paintings by Bruce Price. These paintings, though clearly a continuation of Price's past efforts, are also completely new-looking and very different conceptually. A protegé of the great Clark Richert, Price has taken his mentor's concepts and turned them inside out. In the past few years, for instance, Price has become intensely interested in theories about decoration and ornamentation, things that Richert is pointedly not interested in. Seizing on the potential of decoration to convey pictorial content, Price lays one pattern next to another so that they seem to collide or overlap. And though Price's patterns sometimes look flat, at other times they seem to be covering three-dimensional space, giving his paintings a strange, if compelling, visual effect. Price's FULL is being presented with PLANNING.ABSTRACT: New Paintings by Jared Latimer. These abstracts concern the idea of conflict, combining organic passages with geometric elements. Through October 8 at + Gallery, 2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927.

Revealing the Muse and Colorado Innovators. Hugh Grant, founder and director of the Kirkland Museum on Capitol Hill, curated both Revealing the Muse and Colorado Innovators both at the Lakewood Heritage Center using pieces borrowed from his institution's permanent collection. The Kirkland Museum has an impressive assemblage that includes paintings by Kirkland himself, work by other Colorado artists and an extensive group of decorative arts. Colorado Innovators provides a survey of mid-twentieth-century artists working in Denver. Most of the objects included have either never been exhibited or haven't been seen in living memory. Revealing the Muse is a Vance Kirkland retrospective that begins with his work from the 1930s and ends with pieces done right before his death in 1981. I think it could be argued that surrealism was Kirkland's most important influence, and one of his most important innovations was the mixing of oil paint and water poured onto the surfaces of his pieces. Beginning in the 1950s, this mixture led to some of his greatest paintings ever. Through February 10 at the Radius Gallery, Lakewood Heritage Center, 801 South Yarrow Street, Lakewood, 303-987-7850. Reviewed September 8.

Rococo. Longtime Edge-ster Mark Brasuell is presenting a body of new works at the co-op that take the form of mixed-media paintings, some sporting collage elements. To some extent, these pieces, in which Brasuell mixes issues related to his own biography with the notions of formalist abstraction, represent a continuation of the kind of work he's done over the past fifteen years. However, they also seem to be striking out on a new path for him, as he has incorporated representational -- or at least semi-representational -- imagery of plants, birds and animals. These images are created using antique stencils and cut-up pieces of a how-to-draw book that Brasuell has had since he was a teenager. Brasuell also incorporated script into the pieces, using the content of actual letters he's received. As usual, the use of strong colors in striking contrasts is an important aspect of the works. All of these elements -- abstraction, representation, script and color -- inspired the show's title, Rococo, a more-is-more European style that pushed the excesses of baroque, the previous style, to the breaking point. Through October 9 at Edge Gallery, 3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173.

Selected Recent Acquisitions and Highlights. The impressive roster of permanent holdings of the CU Art Museum in Boulder is known as the Colorado Collection, a fitting appellation. It was started modestly as a teaching aid in 1939, but today it represents much more than that, containing more than 5,000 works of art, including drawings, paintings, photographs, sculpture and pottery. Director Lisa Tamiris Becker chose the pieces in Selected Recent Acquisitions and Highlights of the CU Art Museum's Permanent Collection. The show focuses on those items that were acquired between 2002 and 2005, along with significant works brought in since the inception of the collection, more than sixty years ago. The show has examples by the old masters, including Brueghel, Rembrandt, Daumier and Dürer; modern masters such as Picasso, Rauschenberg, Warhol and Dubuffet; and contemporary notables, including John Baldessari, Jackie Winsor, Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Mary Kelly. In addition, there are Asian, South American and African artifacts. Through October 21 at the CU Art Museum, in the Sibell Wolle Fine Art Building on the CU-Boulder campus, 303-492-8003.

Steve Altman and Crowded. The fall openers at the Singer Gallery of the Mizel Center are Steve Altman: Incognito and Crowded: Drawings and Collages by Elliott Green. Altman is a well-known local painter whose work combines an abstract-expressionist sensibility with depictions of recognizable things. Singer director Simon Zalkind organized the show, selecting recent paintings and older pieces that together briefly survey Altman's career. Zalkind was especially interested in Altman's take on the big themes of life and death -- and everything in between. The newer paintings feature prominent depictions of the figure, while the earlier ones tend to be more thoroughly abstract. The other, smaller show, Crowded, installed together with the Altman exhibit, highlights Green's cartoonish and somewhat Picassoid collages and drawings. The show's title refers to the fact that Green's compositions are crowded with as many figures as possible. The New York artist is fairly famous, and he was directly involved with this show, lending all of the pieces for it. Through November 6 at the Singer Gallery, Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360.

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