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.

Colorado Clay 2006. Beginning some thirty years ago, Foothills Art Center in Golden established Colorado Clay as an annual juried exhibit highlighting ceramics. But this year, director Jenny Cook changed its format into a biennial. Colorado Clay 2006 is a good group show, but it is somewhat disappointing in comparison to past outings. This is the case because celebrity juror Michel Conroy chose too many goofy ceramics and too few functional pieces, and because curator Michael Chavez randomly scattered the pieces around instead of grouping the works of individual artists together. Among the standouts are the sculptural ewers by Paul Morris, Bebe Alexander's architectonic lidded bottles, the quirky and beautifully glazed figures by Caroline Douglas, and Jim Klingman's classic wheel-turned vessels. Others represented in the show include Katie Caron, Amy Chavez, Christine Owen, Julie McNair, MaryLynn Schumacher, Valerie and Jonathan Nicklow, Kazu Obu, David Beumée, Peggy Crago and Joyce Bikel. Through May 7 at Foothills Art Center, 809 15th Street, Golden, 303-279-3922. Reviewed April 6.

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.

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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.

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. As an added treat, there's a mini-solo reprising last month's Frank Sampson show of magical realist works. All through May 12 at Sandy Carson Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585.

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