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. 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. Woodman's pithy essay in the brochure is a must-read. Through August 20 at the Singer Gallery, Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-399-2660. Reviewed July 13.

Balanced Dissolution. Chuck Parson, one of the region's top sculptors, is an artist whose work you'd expect to see in a fall slot, but his solo, Balanced Dissolution, is on right now at Artyard. Parson does non-objective metal sculptures with deep roots in conceptual art and constructivism. He's chiefly interested in creating freestanding sculptures with an industrial aesthetic that comes from their heavy-duty materials, such as steel and stone. But he's also been involved with all kinds of new media, including performance, video and installation. In the small indoor space at Artyard, Parson has installed two large sculptures surrounded by his 3-D dimensional drawings, giving the humble little room a swank atmosphere. The main part of the exhibit is outdoors, and while the works are impressive, they've been poorly installed. There's some kind of unnamed spiritual content to most of these large outdoor pieces, since most recall the form of altars. Through July 31 at Artyard, 1251 South Pearl Street, 303-777-3219. Reviewed June 15.

Bernar Venet: Sculpture and Works on Paper. Sitting on the lawn of the Colorado Convention Center is "Indeterminate Line," an enormous rusted-steel sculpture in the form of a spiral doodle. The piece, by Bernar Venet, is one of the most important works of art in the city, even though the French-born New York-based artist's local fame only dates back to its unveiling two years ago. Taking advantage of the rise in the internationally famous artist's Denver stature, Robischon Gallery is presenting Bernar Venet: Sculpture and Works on Paper. Though modest, with only one mid-sized sculpture and a half-dozen small ones, the exhibit is heart-stopping in its elegance. Venet began making serious work in the 1960s, and by the '80s, his steel sculptures, which relate to both expressionism and minimalism, were being built around the world. Since then, Venet's art career has flourished, and the pieces at Robischon provide a good introduction to his recent interests. This gorgeous show is definitely one of the best offerings so far this year. Through July 29 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788. Reviewed June15.

Colorado Modernism: 1930 — 1970. Some believe that Colorado art doesn't stand up to scrutiny because it's so far behind the times, but they're wrong. Take modernist abstraction, for example: Local artists, especially those in Colorado Springs, were working in styles such as cubo-regionalism, surrealism and abstract expressionism as early as artists anywhere else in the country. That makes sense, because so many of the most important artists who worked here studied in places like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. This must-see show, put together by artist and amateur art historian Tracy Felix, is a display of the state's noble abstract tradition. The miniature blockbuster is given over almost entirely to painting, with only one photographer and one sculptor being included. The painting prejudice is understandable, because curator Felix is a painter, and like nearly all painters, he's mainly interested in his own medium. But it's a minor complaint, because the show, chock-full of treasures by the likes of Vance Kirkland, Charles Bunnell, Mary Chenoweth and Al Wynne, is absolutely marvelous. Through August 25 at Foothills Art Center, 809 15th Street, Golden, 303-279-3922.

Decades of Influence. This four-part extravaganza is not only the magnum opus for MCA director Cydney Payton's career thus far, but it's also one of the most important shows to be presented in the area in years. Decades of Influence: Colorado 1985 — Present goes a long way in demonstrating how vast and sophisticated the art scene around here is, especially when you start to list in your mind all the important players who aren't included. The exhibit starts at the MCA with the 1985 to 1995 portion, and continues on at the Center for Visual Art, a co-sponsor of the show, where the artists representing 1996 to 2006 are ensconced. Then there's the Gates Sculpture Triangle, where outdoor creations are displayed, and finally the Carol Keller Project Space, which houses an installation. Through August 27 at Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street; Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street; Gates Sculpture Triangle, 1551 Wewatta Street; and Carol Keller Project Space, 1513 Boulder Street. For information, call 303-298-7554. Reviewed June 22 and 29.

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