Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

Abstract Symbols. No sooner had Tracy Felix taken down his show at the William Havu Gallery than Sushe Felix, his wife, put up her own, a major exhibit with some three dozen paintings. The show has an epic-length title -- Abstract Symbols From Nature and the Unconscious, new paintings by Sushe Felix -- that reveals the artist's debt to the transcendentalists working in New Mexico in the early twentieth century who also looked at nature and the unconscious. In these recent pieces, Felix simplifies the sky and mountains of Western scenery into spheres, solids and voids. Though abstract, the paintings can still be read as landscapes. Her technique is meticulous, with crisp edges between the colors; she orchestrates the colors from extremes of hot yellow and orange to cool blue and green, causing some parts of the paintings to recede while others come forward. In addition to Felix's work, Havu is presenting nature-based woodblock prints by Boulder artist Jean Gumpper and sculptures by Denver artist Todd Siler, who is new to the gallery. Through March 18 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360.

Auditioning Gods, et al. Arvada Center curator Jerry Gilmore has organized a quartet of shows devoted to recent work by Colorado artists. In the lower galleries, Bryan Andrews presents Auditioning Gods, which continues the "fetem" sculpture series he's been pursuing for years. These hand-carved wooden sculptures are an attempt to reconcile folk and modern traditions. Small temple-like structures are his latest take on primitive, devotional art. Andrews shares the space with his friend Joe Riché, who is presenting the good times are killing me, a collection of his signature kinetic sculptures made of found materials. Also on display is a short film about the Motoman Project, a very Mark Pauline-ish performance troupe that uses robotics and explosions. In the upper gallery is Testify, a grouping of large-scale chalk drawings by Riva Sweetrocket; in the nearby Theater Gallery is Jennifer Parisi's Memento Mori, a show of paintings done on found materials and incorporating found images. Memento Mori and Testify are on display through March 26; Auditioning Gods and the good times are killing me through March 31, at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200. Reviewed February 9.

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 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.

5 Portfolios, et al.The Colorado Collection at the University of Colorado was launched in 1939 as an aid to teaching. In the intervening decades, it has become a cultural treasure that includes some 5,000 works of art. 5 Portfolios is the latest in an ongoing series of exhibitions spotlighting different aspects of CU's horde. There are a lot of big-name modernists in the collection, like the five that director Lisa Timiris Becker chose to feature this time: Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí, Philippe Halsman, Louise Nevelson and David Álfaro Siqueiros. Each artist is represented by an entire portfolio: Calder's "Our Unfinished Revolution," Dalí's "Imaginations et Objets du Futur," Halsman's "Halsman/Dalí," Nevelson's "Façade/Homage to Edith Sitwell" and Siqueiros's "Mountain Suite." All of the portfolios were created in the '60s or '70s. In addition, the museum is presenting The Way We Live Now, a show of artist-made books from the Mark and Polly Addison collection. Through March 24 at the CU Art Museum in the Sibell-Wolle Fine Arts Building on the Boulder campus, 303-492-8300.

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