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.

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.

RADAR. With its outlandish appearance, the Denver Art Museum's new Frederic C. Hamilton Building has overshadowed what's on display inside. There are a few exceptions to this, and first among them is RADAR: Selections From the Collection of Vicki & Kent Logan, installed in the Anschutz Gallery on the second level. Put together by Dianne Vanderlip, the outgoing curator of the Modern and Contemporary Art department, RADARincludes sections on the cutting edge in Asia, Europe and America. Many of the works were donated by the Logans, who live in Vail and are among the most important collectors of contemporary art in the country -- and, in recent years, among the DAM's most significant donors, having given as gifts over 200 works of art and promised hundreds more. Some of the biggest names in international art are in the show, among them Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, Zhang Huan, Damien Hirst, Jenny Saville, Michel Majerus, Neo Rauch, Carroll Dunham, Kiki Smith, George Condo and Fred Tomaselli, all represented by major works. An absolute must-see. Through July 15 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed December 28.

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 and Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576. Reviewed December 21.

SUSAN BERKLEY and CONOR PATRICK HOLLIS. In the front space at Edge is a tight-looking abstract-painting show titled SUSAN BERKLEY: On Smith Road, made up of creamy compositions purportedly based on the sights of the gritty old industrial highway. Berkley has written that she is inspired by things like weeds, wires and railroad tracks, and maybe that's why her paintings are divided by linear elements. But otherwise, it's hard to see how these lyrical paintings relate to the shabby scenes glimpsed along Smith Road. On the other hand, it's easy to see how accomplished Berkley is at pulling off asymmetrically balanced arrangements of shapes, and how good she is at achieving lively and expressionistic surface effects. One last thing: These paintings are absurdly cheap, and I wouldn't be surprised if Berkley sold out the show. In the next room is CONOR PATRICK HOLLIS: AN EXAMINATION OF ABSENTMINDEDNESS, a display of paintings and sculptures. The paintings have a crude, childlike appearance, but that sensibility works better with the two arte povera-style sculptures placed in the middle of the floor. Through January 28 at Edge Gallery, 3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173.

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