Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

 The Armory Group. In a summer art calendar that's uncharacteristically filled with significant exhibitions, The Armory Group: 40 Years has got to be one of the most important of them all. The story begins back in 1966 in Boulder -- specifically, in the fine-arts department at the University of Colorado. The title of the show refers to a former armory the fine-art department used for graduate studios, and it was there that the group coalesced. The artists of the Armory Group went on to do many things, including founding Drop City, the artful commune near Trinidad, and the CrissCross group, which published a nationally distributed art magazine. And there was Edge Gallery in Boulder and Spark Gallery in Denver. The group includes some of the most respected artists to have worked in Colorado, such as Dale Chisman, Clark Richert, John De Andrea, Margaret Neumann and George Woodman, among others. An opening reception is set for Thursday, June 22, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Through August 20 at the Singer Gallery, Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-399-2660.

Apparition. The brand-new Gallery Severn, which is owned by art collector and retired executive Andy Dodd, aims to be what he has called a "launch pad" for emerging artists. This specialty in fresh faces instantly makes the place interesting. Also interesting is Dodd's decision to feature only one artist at a time so that the gallery can promote individuals, individually. Limiting inventory in this way seems like a risky business move, but who knows? It might just work. For the inaugural exhibition, Apparition: The Act of Appearing, Dodd chose to highlight abstract paintings by Dante Ortiz, a young artist who is little known in Denver. Born in Colorado, Ortiz was educated at the Rhode Island School of Design, earning degrees in landscape architecture and fine arts. This led directly to his founding of Studio Forma, a landscape design firm in Boulder. Last year he started painting again, creating the abstracts of overlapping color fields set off by enthusiastic scribbles that make up this show. These bright Ortiz paintings look pretty good in the tidy space. Through June 30 at Gallery Severn, 3210 Tejon Street, 303-532-9369.

The Barest Trace and Introverted. Wes Magyar's solo of monumental oil-on-canvas portraits, The Barest Trace, which is installed in the front space at + Gallery, is filled with contemporary paintings that sport traditional methods. The resulting pieces are thick with naturalism in their renderings and crisp details. Though he's still quite young, Magyar's been exhibiting his work around town for a while, so there are certain things that viewers can expect from him. One regular feature is the way he puts psychological narratives in his pictures, though the meanings of his story lines are always indecipherable. In the second space at + is Introverted, a solo of new paintings by young artist Robin Schaefer. The oddball paintings, many of them concerning a potato drenched in dramatic light, reveal that Schaefer is an expert technically. The potatoes (and an orange) have been skillfully rendered, and she's great at orchestrating the light/dark dialectic. I'm not sure Schaefer has yet arrived at the ideal subject to showcase her considerable talents, but the idea of an edgy still life really has potential. Both through July 8 at + Gallery, 2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927. Reviewed June 8.

Emmi Whitehorse et al. Joan Markowitz, senior curator and co-director of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, has put together a trio of single-artist shows. First is Emmi Whitehorse, a solo dedicated to recent work by the nationally known New Mexico artist. Whitehorse was raised on a Navajo reservation and attended the University of New Mexico before becoming famous in New York during the 1980s. She does abstract paintings and prints that incorporate Navajo imagery and words. Whitehorse recently worked in Lyons, near Boulder, producing prints at Shark's Ink. The second show, Tracy Krumm, highlights this artist's woven-metal sculptures, which explore gender issues by juxtaposing industrial material with the domestic method. Krumm is a teacher of fiber art at the Kansas City Art Institute. The last show is Mica Chamber, a site-specific installation by Colorado artist Rebecca DiDomenico, who has used layers of thousands of mica rectangles and thousands of black-and-white photos to suggest the passage of her life. Through July 29 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 303-443-2122.

James McNeill Whistler. For the first time in seventy years, there are no art shows on display at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, that gorgeous New Mexi-deco-style landmark by John Gaw Meem. But that doesn't mean the place is closed down. On the contrary, while the Meem building is being expanded, the CSFAC has opened an annex in downtown Colorado Springs to keep the institution up and running and in the eye of the public. The new space has been dubbed FAC Modern and is located in the Plaza of the Rockies complex. Currently on display there is James McNeill Whistler. Whistler was one of the great artists of the nineteenth century. Born in America, he spent almost his entire career in London and Paris, where he was associated with the impressionists. Despite that connection, he wasn't one of them -- even if he did do many impressionist-style works. The pieces in this show are from the collection of Scotland's Hunterian Art Gallery and include a few small paintings, a handful of objects owned by Whistler and, for the main course, his famous etchings and other works on paper. Through August 20 at FAC Modern, 121 Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581.

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