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 Ute Pass 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.

Denver's Pictorial Photographer. The Colorado Photographic Art Center no longer has a permanent home, but it's still going. The group has held on to its impressive permanent collection, which is where the material for Denver's Pictorial Photographer at Gallery Roach comes from. The title refers to R. Ewing Stiffler's work done in the pictorialist style in the early-twentieth century. As opposed to following the documentary tradition, which dominated early photography, pictorial photographers responded to painting. A signature example is Stiffler's "Labor Glorified," from 1925. In truth, however, not everything in the show is pictorialist, which makes the title slightly misleading. Stiffler was born in 1888 in Missouri but came to Denver as a teenager, graduating from East High School in 1908. Among the several colleges he attended was the Chicago Art Institute. The CPAC show at Roach is a rare opportunity to see Stiffler's work, with some of the pieces not having been exhibited since 1935, when the Denver Art Museum mounted a pictorialist group show. This is the first of many CPAC shows that will be installed around town. Through April 29 at Gallery Roach, 860 Broadway, 303-839-5202.

Infinite in All Directions. Every year the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture presents a thematically linked interdisciplinary program. This time the topic is twentieth-century scientific genius Albert Einstein and is titled "Einstein: The Creative Cosmos." The program includes lectures, concerts, educational programs, plays and an art show, called Infinite in All Directions, which is currently being presented in the museum's Singer Gallery. The show was assembled by gallery director Simon Zalkind and highlights a group of local painters and sculptors who refer to science in metaphorical ways in their work. The participants include the late painter Vance Kirkland, the first on any list of local artists doing this kind of thing, painters Clark Richert and Sue Simon, and sculptors Joseph Shaeffer and Robert Mangold, the dean of Colorado modernism. Because there are only five players, Zalkind allows each to be seen in-depth, creating what could be called a series of interrelated solos. Through April 9 at the Singer Gallery, Mizel Center, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360. Reviewed February 16.

Lino Tagliapietra. The swank Pismo Gallery in Cherry Creek North is presenting a breathtaking glass solo, Lino Tagliapietra: il Mito e la Materia (Myth and Material). There's no question that the leading tradition in glass comes out of Venice, in particular the island of Murano, where the world-renowned Tagliapietra was born in 1934. A quick study, at the age of twelve he began an apprenticeship with the legendary Archimede Seguso, becoming a certified maestro at the tender age of 22. In the '50s, '60s and '70s, Tagliapietra worked as a glassblower and designer for a number of famous Venetian glass houses, notably the revered Venini, the Ferrari of the field. In 1988 he launched his own atelier, and the rest is decorative-art history. Tagliapietra continues to explore many traditional techniques, putting them together in new ways and in his signature shapes; the recent work at Pismo comes from several series, some of which have expected Italian names such as "Gioia" and "Vittoria," while others have unexpected English ones like "Batman" and "Piccadilly." Through March 10 at Pismo Fine Art Glass, 2770 East Second Avenue, 303-333-2879.

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