Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

Breaking the Mold. In 2003, Connecticut collector Virginia Vogel Mattern donated some 300 pieces of contemporary American Indian art to the Denver Art Museum. For one of the special shows inaugurating the new Frederic C. Hamilton Building, Native Arts curator Nancy Blomberg has selected over a hundred works for the impressive Breaking the Mold: The Virginia Vogel Mattern Collection of Contemporary Native American Art, which is installed in the Martin & McCormick Gallery on level two. Mattern began collecting in 1992, when she purchased a miniature pot by Delores Curran in Santa Fe; though she remained interested in miniatures, she also pursued prize-winning pieces from annual American Indian art shows, focused on multiple generations of the Tafoya and Nampayo families and explored through pottery, textiles and paintings the interrelationships of the Navajo, Zuni and San Ildefonso peoples. But Mattern was also interested in innovation -- the "breaking the mold" of the show's title -- with such pieces as Hubert Candelario's coiled clay jar with holes cut into the sides so that it's non-functional, but beautiful. Through August 31, 2007, at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed November 23.

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.

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 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. Reviewed September 14.

Terry Maker, et al. The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting its crop of winter exhibits with Terry Maker: New Work occupying the large West Gallery. Maker is well known in the area for her unusual three-dimensional mixed-media wall pieces that would be paintings if she used paint instead of cut, rolled and otherwise altered papers. In the East Gallery is the elegant Jimi Billingsley: Transit Glyphs, which is made up of color photographs depicting graffiti etched into the windows of subway and elevated trains in New York. This makes the backgrounds -- and not the tagging -- the principal subject of the pictures. In the Union Works Gallery is DJRABBI: Society of the Spectacle (A Digital Remix), a DVD collaboratively made by Mark Amerika, Rick Silva and Trace Reddell. The piece combines political and pop-cultural references, with visuals by Silva, sound by Reddell and edgy subtitles by Amerika. Through January 27 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 303-443-2122.

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