Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

Patti Cramer. Artist Patti Cramer is a Denver icon. The Westword contributor has been the subject of innumerable solos over the past twenty years, and her work is in many collections in the region. In the past few years, Cramer has kept a lower-than-usual profile, making the self-titled Patti Cramer at Open Press LTD a rare opportunity to see what she's been up to lately. The show includes paintings, monotypes and etchings, the latter two mediums created at Open Press, which is more of a printmaking facility than a gallery. Cramer's signature pieces look like a cross between Old Master paintings and New Yorker cartoons. Cramer's world is made up of fashionable people socializing in restaurants and out on the sidewalks. There are also portraits and landscapes, as well as her characteristic depictions of horses. Cramer's horses are linear and are more abstract than any of her other subjects. Though the Open Press exhibition space is fairly small, Patti Cramer is a large show of nearly fifty pieces. Through December 10 at Open Press LTD, 40 West Bayaud Street, 303-778-1116. Reviewed on October 20.

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.

Step Right Up! In this two-part exhibit at Studio Aiello, Denver artist David Seiler has installed a conventional art show up front and something very unusual in the back: a circus-looking tent filled with sculptures that recall sideshow attractions. A depiction of a barker with a sound track draws viewers into the tent. Seiler antiqued the sculpture so that it appears to date from the early twentieth century, which the hypothetical time frame of his carnival, which is called "Circus of More." Seiler is dead-on in conveying the look of agedness, with everything in the show -- even the tent itself -- appearing to be antique. The yellow- and red-striped tent was draped from the ceiling, completely transforming the room into a creepy place -- a feeling that's enhanced by the dim lighting. Arrayed around the tent are various devices such as "Phrenitiscopes" -- motion picture contraptions that are hand-cranked -- as well as a fortune-telling machine and a wheel of fortune. Through November 4 at Studio Aiello, 3563 Walnut Street, 303-297-8166. Reviewed October 20.

Steve Altmanand 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. Reviewed October 13.

Trading Voices, et al. This juried show in the Lower Gallery at the Arvada Center was put together using a clever if obvious idea: Have a Coloradan judge the Arizona pieces, and an Arizonan pick the Colorado ones. In this case, the local was Denver Art Museum curator Dianne Vanderlip, who was matched with Marilyn Zeitlin from the Arizona State University Art Museum. The concept for the show, which compares artists from the two states, came from Arvada's gallery and museum director, Jerry Gilmore, who lived in Arizona and still maintains ties to the art scene there. Interestingly, the Colorado artists outnumber those from Arizona by a ratio of two to one. In the Upper Gallery is a site-specific piece based on artist Amy Mishkin's harrowing life experiences, titled Pivotal Experience. In the Theater Gallery is New Works on Paper, made up of prints by Chuck McCoy that combine fine art and commercial processes. Trading Voices runs through November 21, Pivotal Experience through November 13, New Works on Paper through November 20, all at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200.

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