Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

 Eugene Yelchin. Over the past several years, Singer Gallery director Simon Zalkind has often presented exhibits highlighting the work of Jewish artists who hail from the former Soviet Union. And for these exhibits, Zalkind has turned to Mina Litinsky, director of the Sloane Gallery in LoDo, who's an acknowledged expert in the field. The current offering on the topic, Eugene Yelchin: A Thousand Casualties, features paintings by an artist who was born in Leningrad -- now St. Petersburg -- but who immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. Yelchin's unusual style, which refers to post-modernism, involves a play on traditional representation to come up with thoroughly abstract results. Zalkind wrote in the catalogue that Yelchin is inspired by artists such as Goya and Rembrandt, but there's also a big relationship to the work of Francis Bacon. And, as with Bacon's style, the figures in Yelchin's paintings seem to be melting, giving them a surrealist twist and making them downright disturbing. Through November 5 at the Singer Gallery, Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360.

Extended Remix. MCA curator and director Cydney Payton is doing hermeneutics by interpreting her own interpretations. This past summer, Payton oversaw the MCA's most ambitious offering, Decades of Influence, and for her followup, she organized Extended Remix, pairing some of the artists she chose for Decades with artists she had left out. The title, Extended Remix, refers to the musical process whereby DJs create new compositions by combining disparate material -- exactly what Payton did for this exhibit. Decades artists such as Bruce Price, Clark Richert and Kim Dickey are joined by artists who weren't part of that show, among them Paul Gillis, Mary Ehrin and Carley Warren. The work of several emerging talents, including Matthew Larson and Steve Read, is also here. Remix is a great idea, even if it isn't all that different from a typical museum change-out. With thirty artists, the MCA is filled to over-flowing, so the Gates Sculpture Triangle is serving as a museum annex in order to showcase additional pieces. Through January 7 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554.

Fantôme Afrique. After a couple of years in preparation, the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar has opened with Fantôme Afrique, a three-screen film by British artist Isaac Julien. In it, Julien focuses on the cinema culture in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, a center for African film. The title is a play on L'Afrique Fantôme, a book by Michel Leiris, who was a surrealist and an ethnographer. Julien's intention is to show how Western culture has affected Africa, which is the opposite of what Leiris did in his book. The images of dancers, buildings and movies set to a soundtrack are hypnotic and lyrical. Less than twenty minutes long, it will run on a continuous loop projected onto a wall. Called the Lab for short, this place aims to showcase vanguard art in the suburbs. The Lab's director, Adam Lerner, served as master teacher in the Denver Art Museum's department of modern and contemporary art. The Lab may be found amid McDonald's and Bed, Bath & Beyonds, but Lerner sees it as being between McSweeney's and Burning Man. Actually, it's above Zales. Through December 30 at the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar, 404 South Upham Street, 303-742-1520.

Heaven and Earth. The Museo de las Américas is mostly given over to exhibitions of contemporary art that carry political messages. For Heaven and Earth, however, the institution turned its sights on historic art from Mexico, borrowing from the Jan and Frederick Mayer Collection of Spanish Colonial Art at the Denver Art Museum. In addition to the DAM, the Museo also collaborated with the Agency for Architecture, which designed environments for the pieces to sit in. Mexico was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1850, thus Spain was the main source for cultural ideals. The Spanish made it their goal to convert the indigenous people to Roman Catholicism, and this show focuses on the religious art that played a role in that. Religious subjects, often commissioned by churches, convents and monasteries, represent the main aesthetic interest for Mexican artists of that time, and, as could be expected, there's no shortage of images of the Virgin, the Crucifixion and the saints. However, the exhibit ultimately reveals that Mexican art is not comparable to Spanish art, despite Spain's key role in its development. Through October 8 at the Museo de las Américas, 861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401.

James Surls, Ligia Bouton and Shark's. The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art has gotten a jump on the upcoming season with the star attraction James Surls: A Cut Above, which features selected works by the famous sculptor who made his name in Texas in the '80s but has lived in Colorado since 1998. Surls's medium of choice is carved wood, and his signature is leaving the wood in its subtle array of natural colors. After carving, he assembles his sinuously cut forms into unlikely arrangements, often hanging them from the ceiling. Also on tap is Ligia Bouton: Hybrids, a video that explores identity though wardrobe with a decidedly feminist stamp; Bouton, who lives in Santa Fe, juxtaposes images of herself wearing different outfits like a burkha on one side and a tutu on the other. Finally there's Woodcut Prints From Shark's Ink: Out of the Woods, with works on paper by Betty Woodman, Red Grooms, John Buck, Roy De Forest and others, produced by Bud Shark in his famous print shop in nearby Lyons. Through October 14 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 303-443-2122.

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