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. He is generally regarded as having been among the most important artists in the world during the second half of the twentieth century, and one of the greatest American artists of all time. The wide range of prints in this show neatly explains why. Through December 31 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581. Reviewed November 17.

Building Outside the Box. With the Denver Art Museum's outlandish Hamilton Building by Daniel Libeskind taking shape at West 13th Avenue and Acoma Plaza, there's a lot going on outside the place. Inside the gorgeous Gio Ponti tower, it's a different story. Up until the opening of the Hamilton next fall, there will be one show on the main floor titled Building Outside the Box: Creating the New Denver Art Museum, which has been given the cutesy nickname of B.O.B. If the Hamilton Building itself is exciting, its explication put forward in this show is decidedly not; it's the kind of thing you'd expect to find in an airport or a shopping mall, but surely not at an art museum. This dog looks as if it were organized by a committee and not by a curator with some expertise -- like Craig Miller, the head of the DAM's architecture, design and graphics department. He always does such a good job, so he obviously had nothing to do with it. The shame is that with the existence of this dumbed-down feature, it's unlikely that a proper show on the topic will be done in the future. Through Fall 2006 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed November 10.

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 to that one. 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 recreate and 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 having volume I available for those who missed it. Through April 5 at the Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway, 303-866-3678.

DIALOG:21. Over the last decade, Denver artist Peter Illig has made a reputation with pieces featuring representational imagery. Like other current realists, Illig has brought something new to the age-old tradition -- in his case, obvious references to pop culture, particularly the movies. Like movies, Illig's works feature juxtapositions of visual information, and although the narratives are confusing, they are clearly there nonetheless. In recent years, Illig has carried out his ideas on gigantic sixty-foot-long charcoal drawings, but for DIALOG:21, he's shifted gears and done more than a score of small paintings. He collectively calls these his "Modular Dialogue" series, which he describes as an "image matrix." In them, he achieves the same effect as in his drawings, because taken together, the panels become parts of one piece. There is a difference, though: Because the paintings are moveable, the arrangement of the images -- and therefore the story -- can change. A reception is planned for December 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. Through December 10 at Spark Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200.

Illusions. The Walker Gallery in the Golden Triangle has paired Bonny Lhotka's unusual digital photo-enlargements with Christopher Oar's geometric sculptures that refer to everyday objects for the show Illusions. The title, of course, is meaningless since the word could be used to describe anything in the visual arts. Lhotka is an experimental photo artist who uses unusual forms, like lenticular photos (the ones with different images depending on the viewer's vantage point), and odd materials, such as metal and ultraviolet-cured inks. Though Lhotka employs digital technology, she also does a lot of handwork to come up with her finished pieces. Her compositions are jammed 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, and 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 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 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 The Camera Obscura Gallery is Scottish for "Land of Bent Grass" and refers to the Hebrides islands, which lie northwest of the Scotland. The exhibit is made up of 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. 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 Hebides are. Through December 31 at The Camera Obscura Gallery, 1309 Bannock Street, 303-623-4059.

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 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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