Hippie Haven

Four decades after working together in Boulder, Armory artists reunite in Denver.

One of the obvious stars of The Armory Group is the legendary Clark Richert, who's represented by a classic work made up of tiny, meticulously done squares on a gray ground and a newer painting in which curvilinear elements have been added on a rich blue field. Closely related to these Richerts, at least conceptually, are the paper constructions by Richard Kallweit that take the form of polyhedrons covered in elaborate decorations. Completely unrelated to either the Richerts or the Kallweits are the neo-traditional landscapes by Susan Katz and the figural sculptures by Mike Reardon, installed nearby.

The show ends with a photo documentation of a performance arranged by Mierle Laderman Ukeles, who is world-famous for her conceptual works. In this piece, "Snow Workers Ballet," Ukeles re-created the story of Romeo and Juliet using front-end loaders painted different colors to distinguish one from another.

The Armory Group makes the perfect prequel to the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver's blockbuster Decades of Influence, though Zalkind didn't know that the MCA show was going to happen when he was putting his exhibit together. Once he found out, he felt that it was the wrong time and that he'd made a mistake, that the MCA extravaganza would make his effort look like a poor relation. But he's finally come around to realize what I did: It's the perfect show at the perfect time.

"Western Theory 3," by Dale Chisman, oil on canvas.
"Western Theory 3," by Dale Chisman, oil on canvas.
"Bad Boys/Max and Morris," by Margaret Neumann, 
oil on canvas.
"Bad Boys/Max and Morris," by Margaret Neumann, oil on canvas.


Through August 20, Singer Gallery, Mizel Center, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316- 6360

I can't recall a time when there was such a convergence of exhibits examining the region's past art. As I've pointed out during the last month or two, this summer provides Denver gallery-goers with a tremendous opportunity to take a big-picture look at local art history.

Sadly, it's already too late to take in Colorado & the West at David Cook Fine Art, which provided a snapshot of the first half of the twentieth century. If you missed it -- and especially if you didn't -- you'll want to take in Vavra Triptych at the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts. Organized by Kirkland director Hugh Grant, it's a show that looks at the work of Frank Vavra, who was a major artist in Denver from the '20s to the '60s, as well as surprisingly strong efforts by his wife, Kathleen Huffman Vavra, and his daughter, Diane Vavra.

A different look at the state's early- to mid-twentieth-century art is Colorado Modernism: 1930-1970, which opens Friday, July 14, at Foothills Art Center in Golden with a reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The show, guest-curated by contemporary artist Tracy Felix, explores the development of modernism in the state, beginning with the cubo-regionalism of the 1930s and winding up with the abstract expressionism of the '50s and '60s.

Then, of course, there's The Armory Group at the Mizel Center, which is reviewed above and segues perfectly into a plug for Decades of Influence: Colorado 1985 -- Present, at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, the Center for Visual Art, the Gates Sculpture Triangle and the Carol Keller Project Space. For this over-the-top multi-part show, MCA director Cydney Payton assembled a who's who of artists who collectively do a good job of sketching out the art currents of the past twenty years.

Now, I know a lot of you dawdled and put off seeing that David Cook show until it was too late. However, there's still plenty of time to see the others I've mentioned, as they all close in August or later. And if you don't get around to seeing them, don't blame me: I've done all I can.

Last week, I laid out an imaginary version of Cydney Payton's greatest triumph, Decades of Influence: Colorado 1985 -- Present. It was Payton herself who pointed out to me that I had left out one of our greatest ceramic artists, Maynard Tischler, of all people. Payton was right, and so, as a late entry, I'd include something by him, maybe one of his pop-y trucks. During the same conversation, Payton teased an upcoming show that's already in the planning stages. The working title is Decades Redux, for which she plans to take some of the artists in the actual show (as opposed to my mental one) and use them as a starting point to bring in others. There's no denying it: Payton has hit her stride.

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