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 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, as seen in 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.

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 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, the film will run on a continuous loop projected onto a wall. The Lab aims to showcase vanguard art in the suburbs; its director, Adam Lerner, served as master teacher in the Denver Art Museum's department of Modern and Contemporary Art. The place 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 January 10 at the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar, 404 South Upham Street, 303-742-1520. Reviewed September 14.

Mile High Steel. This compelling exhibit was organized by Dennis Walla, who sifted through the 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. Through January 31 at Gallery Roach, 860 Broadway, 303-839-5202. Reviewed November 30.

60 Years of Colorado Modernism, et al. Among the specialties of the Kirkland Museum in Capitol Hill is art made in Colorado -- in particular, modern art, which makes sense, because the late Vance Kirkland, for whom the museum is named, was Denver's premier mid-century modernist. The current exhibit, 60 Years of Colorado Modernism, put together by director and founder Hugh Grant, ambles through the two-story facility, with pieces culled from the museum's extensive collection, including examples by Kirkland himself along with the work of Herbert Bayer, Al Wynne, Robert Mangold, Beverly Rosen, Martha Daniels, Betty Woodman and more. Another specialty of the Kirkland is design and decor, and the other show there, From Framing to Furnishing, highlights architects' work owned by the Kirkland. This show, too, runs throughout the museum, with pieces indicated by special blue tags. Creations by legendary designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Joseph Hoffman, Donald Deskey, Gio Ponti and scores of others are featured. Through March 4 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576. Reviewed December 21.

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