Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

 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 from 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.

Geometric Abstraction. This group show at the UMC Gallery at the University of Colorado at Boulder brings together works by a variety of artists who did geometric abstraction in the '60s and '70s. This kind of thing was perfect for the times, because the simplicity meant there was no content other than form and color, making it corporate-friendly, unlike the narrative-heavy pop art of the same period. Despite the stylistic affinities that link all of the Geometric artists, the show includes artists from two distinctly different generations: Frank Stella and Sol LeWitt, who were responding to abstract expressionism; and Herbert Bayer and Ilya Bolotowsky, who were embracing geometry before the first abstract expressionist flung the first wad of paint. The two generations were motivated by different impulses, even if their pieces are superficially compatible. The included works come from the Colorado Collection, CU's impressive art holdings. Through November 4 at the UMC Gallery, University Memorial Center, Broadway and Euclid Street, Boulder, 303-492-7465.

Jack Balas and Wes Hempel. Berthoud-based artists Jack Balas and Wes Hempel have been partners for more than twenty years, and each is an established artist with his own distinctive style. However, the two are also able to play together on hybrid pieces, as is revealed in this show. But they don't work simultaneously on the same piece: Balas typically comes in after Hempel has completed his part. In some cases, Hempel's contribution was an abandoned painting that Balas took over and made whole. Balas was trained as an architect and fine artist, which possibly explains his interest in neo-pop, while Hempel is a self-taught artist who started out as a writer, which could be why his paintings are so narrative. Balas's pieces often include scribbled passages and shifting scale distortions; Hempel, on the other hand, lends his tightly done pictures a surrealistic quality through depictions of historic art and architecture. There is one thing the two artists have in common: They both like to incorporate depictions of good-looking young guys. These figures represent the everyman on whom the intellectual content of the pieces rest. Through November 5 at the Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788.

The Modern Muybridge Series. This is a clever show that features recent work by Rodney Wallace, who runs the gallery with the oddball name of KOUBOU a Deux, an invented Franco-Japanese phrase that means "artist workshop for two." The show's title refers to Eadweard Muybridge, a pioneer of scientific photography who took sequential photos of people and animals in motion. Free association connects them to Warhol's repetitious imagery, and Wallace references both sensibilities simultaneously. Particularly Warholian are Wallace's bright colors. Also compelling is Wallace's gritty take on city life: His pieces include depictions of a woman loaded down with luggage, a homeless man pushing a shopping cart and an assault in progress, among other contemporary urban scenes. To do the paintings, Wallace took digital photos, some of them staged using models, and then projected the images onto blank canvases. Tracing the images with watercolor pencils, he painted in the forms using acrylics that melted the tracings so that no outlines were left behind. Through November 5 at KOUBOU a Deux, upstairs at 7571/2 Santa Fe Drive, 720-203-1944. Reviewed October 13.

Revealing the Muse and Colorado Innovators. Hugh Grant, founder and director of the Kirkland Museum on Capitol Hill, curated 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 before 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 shortly 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.

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