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.

Mapping Nativity. In Nativity scenes, the story of the birth of Christ is illustrated with figurines. The familiar cast includes not only the infant, but Mary and Joseph, some shepherds, three wise men and an assortment of barnyard animals. It's a marvelous vocabulary for figural sculpture, as artists have known for centuries. The Museo de las Ameicas is currently presenting Mapping Nativity, which compares and contrasts different dioramas made by various Latin American cultures, including those of the southwestern United States. The show, put together by Museo curator Kristi Martens, is not a religious-themed endeavor, but rather a folk-art offering. There are many charming artifacts in the exhibit, mostly made of clay, and lots of them reference pre-Columbian aesthetic devices and techniques that have somehow survived the centuries. Martens principally selected pieces from three private collections -- those of La Meta Lubchenco, Florence Hernandez-Ramos and Laura Edmondson -- with the final checklist including just over a hundred examples. Through December 31 at the Museo de las Americas, 861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401. Reviewed December 21.

Mile High Steel. This compelling exhibit was organized by Dennis Walla, who sifted through the photographic archives of Otto Roach, a mid-twentieth-century commercial photographer who founded Roach Studios (now Roach Photos Inc.) in the 1930s. "I wanted to do something on industrial photography," says Walla, who is a co-owner of Gallery Roach. "And as I was going through the archives, I discovered that most of it was from the early '40s, and the photos were of Denver companies doing work for the war effort." Ultimately, Walla selected more than three dozen images related to eleven different metal fabricators, a number of them in what is now the River North area, for Mile High Steel: Denver's Steel Fabrication Industry during World War II. Roach was hired by these local companies to produce photos that would help them get government contracts, and they did. Despite the original intent of the photos, which are created from vintage 8x10-inch negatives, Roach brought a tremendous sense of artistry to them, and his talent for capturing a wonderfully dynamic composition was apparently boundless. Through January 31 at Gallery Roach, 860 Broadway, 303-839-5202. Reviewed November 30.

Susan Goldstein and Judy Anderson. Simon Zalkind, director of the Singer Gallery in the Mizel Center, likes to promote underappreciated artists, and he's doing just that with Susan Goldstein: COMING TO AMERICA: A Retrospective. Goldstein has been producing first-rate work in several different mediums for the better part of a decade. But even though she is one of Denver's most interesting photographers and collagists, just about everything she has displayed has been at the humble Edge Gallery, an artist co-op. Though the Singer show is a retrospective, Goldstein made it impossible to arrange the exhibit chronologically, because she did ten new pieces in each of the series she's created since the '90s. And once she comes up with a strategy, she hardly wavers, with the result that her pieces within a series, regardless of age, are astoundingly consistent conceptually, aesthetically and technically. In the Cooper Gallery is another solo by a Denver artist, Judy Anderson: Going Home, filled with collages and paper constructions inspired by a walk through the Denver Botanic Gardens. Both through December 31 at the Singer Gallery, Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360. Reviewed December 14.

Under the Radar. Among the treasure trove of art shows now in the area, UNDER THE RADAR: Chinese Contemporary Art at Robischon is clearly one of the best. The exhibit was put together by gallery co-director Jennifer Doran; its title is a play on Radar: Selections from the Collection of Vicki & Kent Logan, currently in the Anschutz Gallery on the second level of the DAM's Hamilton building. The Logans also loaned Robischon a pair of monumental works -- a sculpture of a pig by Chen Wenling and a triptych devoted to Buddha by Yen Lei -- that add pizzazz to the offering. Catching your eye while you're still out on the sidewalk is "Tang Lady," a fiberglass sculpture of a woman in traditional dress by Yu Fan. Another Fan, "Liu Hulan," is a genuine showstopper: Lying on the ground on a pool of plastic blood is a supine woman whose throat has been cut. (Hulan was a martyr for the Communist revolution.) Other artists in the show include Suo Tan, Liu Hong, Chen Liangjie and Zhang Dhali. Through December 30 at Robischon Gallery,

 
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