Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

 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.

Directions in Abstraction. Usually co-ops only present solos by their members, but when an unexpected gap came up in Edge Gallery's schedule, member Mark Brasuell decided to do a show of abstracts created by nonmembers. Brasuell included his own work, as well as that of four other painters: Dale Chisman and Clark Richert, whose pieces appear courtesy of Rule Gallery; plus Bruce Price and Karen McClanahan from + Gallery. Brasuell and Chisman explore new approaches to abstract expressionism; Richert is a geometric abstractionist; and his former students, Price and McClanahan, do post-minimalism. Each artist is represented by a single piece, so drawing comparisons between them is easy. Brasuell's aim was to survey contemporary abstraction, and this show was a good start -- but only that, because there are so many others who should have been in it. Through April 23 at Edge Gallery, 3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173.

Don Stinson, Kevin O'Connell and David Sharpe. One of the many strengths of the Robischon Gallery, the city's standard for contemporary art, is its support of Colorado artists. Right now, three of the state's most important artists are being given individual solos there: Don Stinson: Shared Sky/Natural Forces, made up of contemporary representational paintings of the Western landscape, depicted as both decrepit and majestic; Kevin O'Connell, which comprises meticulous little photographs from various series, including "Lightning Studies" and "False Aurora"; and David Sharpe: Lost Altar, featuring the artist's latest pinhole photographs printed as heroic enlargements. This trio of solos, along with Eric Paddock and Chuck Forsman in the Viewing Room, showcases some of the best artists in the state. Sadly, O'Connell, one of the finest photographers to have ever worked in Colorado, is now struggling with cancer, though he valiantly made the opening. Through April 8 at the Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788. Reviewed March 30.

Gwen Laine and Lorelei Schott. William Biety, exhibition director of the Sandy Carson Gallery, is great at putting together complementary shows. That's exactly what he's done in the pairing of Gwen Laine, featuring contemporary photo-based pieces, and Lorelei Schott, filled with nature-based abstract paintings. Both Laine and Schott are respected local artists who've shown their work in the area for years. In Laine's majestic photos, the artist layers images one over another by re-photographing it repeatedly until it is vaporous and the subject matter ambiguous. In a conceptually similar though thoroughly different practice, Schott buries her canvases in her backyard garden so that they are altered through natural processes. The natural stains and attached debris become the taking-off point for the painted compositions, the details of which -- flowers, leaves, etc. -- also refer to her garden. As usual, there's also a nice selection of artists from the gallery's stable displayed in the back. An opening reception for the Laine and Schott shows is planned for Thursday, April 6, from 6 to 9 p.m. Both through May 12 at Sandy Carson Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585.

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.

Never Leaving AztlŠn. This exhibit, put together by Museo de las Américas director Patty Ortiz with suggestions from George Rivera, takes on issues relevant to Chicano art versus what's called post-Chicano art. The show is not the first volley in this war of opposing ideals. In 2005, the Center for Visual Art in LoDo mounted Leaving Aztlán, which was meant to highlight how post-Chicano art had superseded Chicano art because of its greater relevance. Never Leaving Aztlán was conceived as an answer to that show. But even though Chicano art plays a part in the Museo presentation, it's post-Chicano artists who carry the day, just like at the CVA. One of the most impressive things is "Carpa Stage," by Carlos Frésquez, Frank Zamora and Los Supersónicos. It's an enormous installation of a full-sized stage modeled on those from Mexican tent shows and includes an array of images based on Mexican, Catholic and American corporate sources. Other standouts are the four paintings by Quintín Gonzalez and the installation of a found crib with a kinetic monster-truck toy inside, by Lewis de Soto. Through May 21 at the Museo de las Américas, 861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401. Reviewed March 2.

see into liquid. This theme is centered on images of water. Occupying both the main floor and the mezzanine of the Museum of Contemporary Art, the secret to the exhibit's success is that it's a beautiful exhibit filled with beautiful things. There are marvelous drawings and prints, many elegant photos, and the three videos are fabulous -- and that's saying something. Director Cydney Payton came up with the idea for this show when she noticed that artists from all over the world were using water for inspiration. The most famous artist involved in the show is Robert Longo -- who is also the best represented -- but there are also other well-known names, including Catherine Opie and Richard Misrach. Rebecca Di Domenico is the only Colorado artist chosen, with most of the others hailing from either the east or west coast, or from different spots around the world. A show about water in landlocked Denver does have a geographic disconnect, but then again, who isn't familiar with the sea? Through May 28 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554. Reviewed February 23.

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