Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

Colorado Classic Architects, et al. Many of the finest buildings in town were done by firms with offices right here in the Mile High City, and they're the subject of Colorado Classic Architects, a handsome and informative exhibit in the Western Art Gallery on the fifth floor of the Denver Central Library. With plans, drawings, sketchbooks, memorabilia and photos from the library's collection, the show zeroes in on architects whose careers span the last century and represent a range of aesthetic visions -- from historical revival style to doctrinaire modernism. Some pieces are unforgettable: the very arty nighttime view of the Denver Gas and Electric Company Building, by H. W. J. Edbrooke; the sublime interior shot of the long-gone Burnham Hoyt's Albany Hotel; and a meticulous drawing of Eugene Sternberg's 1960s Denver General Hospital before its character was lost through insensitive additions. On the first floor, as an added bonus for architecture buffs, Michael Graves and the Denver Public Library includes the original model that won the architectural competition. Both shows run through December 31 at the Denver Central Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-1111.

Dale Chihuly. Last year, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center had a record-breaking show that attracted over 80,000 visitors to see the work of Dale Chihuly. Inspired by this, the CSFAC subsequently acquired more than forty pieces by Chihuly for $2 million. These treasures are now on display not at the venerable old building -- the galleries there are closed while an addition is built -- but in a satellite facility called the FAC Modern housed in a building downtown. The Chihuly pieces, selected by director Michael DeMarshe with the artist's guidance, survey his long and distinguished career, beginning with works inspired by American Indian baskets done in the 1970s and continuing through the Venetian-derived vessels of today, including his famous Macchia bowls. In addition, the CSFAC has acquired several Chihuly chandeliers, which are installed in the old building, and a Persian wall relief displayed in the Jazz Bistro; the collection also includes a selection of Chihuly's works on paper that are less well known than his glass. Through January 7 at the FAC Modern, Plaza of the Rockies, 121 South Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581.

ERIKA BLUMENFELD: Enduring Light. Rule Gallery, owned by Robin Rule, includes minimalism and its stylistic progenies among its specialties, as exemplified by ERIKA BLUMENFELD: Enduring Light. This is Blumenfeld's first solo show at Rule -- she was previously in a group outing at the gallery -- as well as her first one in Denver. Blumenfeld currently lives in Santa Fe, where she's been for a dozen years. Beginning in 1998, she began to experiment with reducing photography to its essentials: light and photo-sensitive surfaces. Without using a camera -- though she does employ some special equipment of her own invention -- Blumenfeld exposes film, paper or digital media to the sun or moon in order to record the light they emit. The process produces unbelievably subtle graduations of light against dark grounds. She often lines up a series of prints that record a process of some sort, like light streaking across the sky or coming and going. The show is extremely elegant and looks great in Rule's newish digs, a crisply finished long, narrow space. Through December 9 at Rule Gallery, 227 Broadway, 303-777-9473.

Marilyn Monroe. Legendary movie star Marilyn Monroe was the definition of photogenic, and several photographers built their careers on memorable photos of her. Camera Obscura Gallery, right across the street from the Denver Art Museum, is hosting an interesting duet titled Marilyn Monroe: Beginning and End that looks at glamour shots by Andre de Dienes done between 1945, when he hired Monroe as a model, and 1953, when their romantic relationship ended, just as her film career began to soar. Many consider de Dienes's photos to be the best images of Marilyn Monroe ever done, which is really saying something. The shots by de Dienes are paired with those by George Barris, whose photos were done in 1962, shortly before the actress's death. Barris was a photojournalist who had been assigned to do a feature on Monroe, and he first met her on the set of her last film, the unfinished Something's Got to Give. Barris is believed to have taken the last photos of the star, but he refused to publish them until long after her death. Through December 31 at Camera Obscura Gallery, 1309 Bannock Street, 303-623-4059.

MEL STRAWN: All Together Now, 1940s-2000s. The Denver Central Library's Vida Ellison Gallery is hosting an important show saluting one of the most important artists in Colorado. In its content, All Together Now is a retrospective, but because of the way it's installed, it does not take that form. The paintings are hung randomly, which prevents an easy reading of Strawn's development, though it's clear he underwent a series of stylistic changes. Strawn was born in Idaho in 1929 and began painting when he was twelve. While pursuing his education, he worked with the likes of Rico Lebrun and Richard Diebenkorn. In 1969 he took over as the head of fine arts at the University of Denver, where he remained until the 1980s. Twenty years later, he's still active. Through November 24 at the Vida Ellison Gallery, Denver Central Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-1111. Reviewed September 28.

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