Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

Colorado: Then & Now II. In the late 1990s, internationally known photographer John Fielder came up with the idea of re-photographing old shots done by William Henry Jackson. This idea led to an exhibit at the Colorado History Museum in 1999, with this current show being the long-anticipated sequel. The CHM has a vast collection of Jackson's work, dating back to his first photos of the state done in 1873, when he was part of the federal Hayden Survey of the American West. In 1880 he opened a Denver studio, which he closed in 1896. As he did for that first Then & Now, Fielder went through the vast Jackson archives and selected the images he wanted to re-create, then revisited those locales. This time, however, Fielder picked more views of buildings rather than depictions of the wilderness. During the show, the CHM's gift shop will have Fielder's accompanying book, Colorado Then & Now II, for sale, as well as the first volume for those who missed it. Through April 5 at the Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway, 303-866-3678.

Illusions. Walker Fine Art has paired Bonny Lhotka's unusual digital photo enlargements with Christopher Oar's geometric sculptures that reference everyday objects for the show Illusions. The title, of course, is meaningless, as the word could be used to describe anything in the visual arts. Lhotka is an experimental photo artist who uses unusual forms, such as lenticular photos (the ones with different images depending on the viewer's vantage point), and odd materials like metal and ultraviolet-cured inks. Though Lhotka employs digital technology, she also does a lot of hand work to come up with her finished pieces. Her compositions are jam-packed with imagery and drenched in colors -- some of them boldly bright, others recessively dark. Oar does tabletop sculptures made of welded steel. Typically, he sets up a stack of flat rectangles reminiscent of piles of books, then places a single steel sphere in the mix. According to his statement, this sphere is meant to represent his aloneness as an artist. Through January 4 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, (entrance on Cherokee Street), 303-355-8955.

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 being 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, which are linear and 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 27.

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 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.

Tir a'Mhurain. The bizarre title of this photo exhibit at Camera Obscura Gallery is Scottish for "Land of Bent Grass" and refers to the Hebrides islands, which lie northwest of Scotland. The exhibit comprises a recent project carried out by Josef Tornick, who lives in Santa Fe. In 1954, legendary photographer Paul Strand spent three months in the Hebrides recording the sights on the tradition-bound islands. In 2004, Tornick retraced Strand's steps to create photos in homage to his work. Despite the Strand reference, Tornick did not ape the master's style, and instead brought his own vision to the project. This was due in part to the conceptual underpinnings of Tornick's project, which has a sociological flavor. Tornick conveys the character of the everyday life of the people who live in the Hebrides, including their interconnections, traditions and cultural life. The photos also reveal that life is hard, no matter how picturesque the Hebrides are. Through December 31 at Camera Obscura Gallery, 1309 Bannock Street, 303-623-4059.

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. There are a few familiar names in Trading Voices, but most of the participants from both states are little known, something that's almost always true in juried shows. 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, New Works on Paper through November 20, both at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200.

Wyoming Expeditions. Gallery Roach is named for the late Otto Roach, a prominent commercial photographer in mid-twentieth century Denver. His lab, Roach Photography, earned a fine reputation for photo finishing. Dutch Walla, who became Roach's associate more than fifty years ago, now owns both the gallery and the lab. Wyoming Expeditions features Roach's photos of Wyoming done between the 1940s and 1960s. They're done in black and white, with Roach capturing many famous Wyoming scenes, including such remarkable Yellowstone National Park subjects as the surrealistic Jupiter Terrace and the majestic falls at Yellowstone's Grand Canyon. Roach repeatedly visited nearby Wyoming to take photos, so he was able to supplement the well-known Yellowstone attractions with shots of unknown backcountry views. Surely the standout is a gigantic mural measuring seven feet by ten feet. And if the tremendous size of the photomural were not enough of an accomplishment, the entire thing has been hand-tinted! Through January 27 at Gallery Roach, 860 Broadway, 303-839-5202.

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