Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

 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.

Centennial of William Sanderson. This exhibit was co-curated by Michael Sanderson and Kirkland Museum director Hugh Grant and includes pieces from that institution's permanent collection, loans from various local collectors and from the artist's estate. Sanderson was one of the most prominent Denver artists in the late '40s and early '50s, and his signature style had a cartoonish quality that sometimes referenced cubism. By the '60s, Sanderson was all but forgotten, but in the 1980s, not long before he died, his career enjoyed a second boom. The interesting thing is that this revival didn't happen because Sanderson's work changed -- the art world did. The show was hung mostly chronologically and includes the kinds of things Sanderson is best remembered for, plus a few odd paintings out, which connect to the rest through his meticulous paint-application technique. This skill is something that reveals his astounding hand-to-eye coordination to even the most casual viewer. Through January 22 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576. Reviewed November 24.

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 re-create and then revisited those locales. This time, however, he picked more views of buildings rather than depictions of the wilderness. During the show's run, the CHM gift shop will have Fielder's accompanying book, Colorado Then & Now II, for sale, as well as Volume I for those who missed it. Through April 5 at the Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway, 303-866-3678.

Dale Chisman. Abstract painter Dale Chisman is at the top of everyone's list, both for his talent and his commitment to art. Chisman began his art career in the 1960s, when he studied with Martha Epp at North High School and, later, with Mary Chenoweth at Colorado College. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he left the area to seek fame in New York. He returned twenty years ago and has lived in town ever since. Dale Chisman at Rule Gallery is partly devoted to work Chisman did in New York in the 1970s and partly given over to paintings done just in the last few months. It's striking how consistent his aesthetic has been over the years; though the new paintings are clearly distinct from the old ones, they are obviously an outgrowth of them. Both sets feature simple palettes of strong colors and have all the tricks of the abstract trade, including smudges, drips, runs and scribbles. Expansive color fields provide a stage for isolated shapes -- geometrics in the old paintings, organic forms in the new -- to play on. Through January 14 at Rule Gallery, 111 Broadway, 303-777-9473. Reviewed December 15.

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.

Tracy Felix, et al. Well-known Denver-area artist Tracy Felix is the subject of this self-titled show at William Havu Gallery, the artist's longtime representative. Felix has a special interest in the art history of Colorado and New Mexico, and in many ways, his idiosyncratic style is a reaction to his research. Classic Felix paintings feature meticulously painted mountain scenes that are marginally realistic and complete with seas of simplified trees, conventionalized peaks and cotton-candy clouds. In addition, he's been doing cubistic versions that are even more abstract. This is Felix's first show in years, and the first in memory without his wife, Sushe Felix. Also on display are ceramic sculptures in the form of abstracted boats by Margaret Haydon -- who lives in Boulder but teaches at the University of Wyoming -- and hyper-realistic landscapes of local scenes in drawings by Denver artist Michael Burrows. An opening reception is set for Friday, January 6, from 6 to 9 p.m. Through February 11 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360.

TRUSS THRUST. Museum of Contemporary Art director Cydney Payton put together this thematic video show by free-associating on the topic of visual perception. She considered biological processes, social and cultural conditioning and the physical and psychological perceptions of movement and space. The show addresses all these issues, though it was surely not inevitable that they would lead Payton to organize an exhibit made up of video installations exploring dance and architecture. Payton began to build the show by first selecting Peter Welz, a Berlin-based artist who is known for his exploration of movement in videos, drawings and installations. Welz is joined by The Blue Noses Group from Russia, a partnership of Viacheslav Mizin and Alexander Shaburov, who do short films based on traditional Russian humor, such as "Little Men," which depicts cavorting nudes. The last participant is Sergio Prego, a Spanish artist interested in relentless endurance. Through January 8 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554. Reviewed December 1.

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 from the 1940s through the 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. Reviewed December 8.

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