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.

John Bonath: Blessings. The optimistic topic of blessings is an interesting choice for digital photographer John Bonath, because he's been battling cancer through chemotherapy. But there is a blessing in it: The treatment has been successful. Bonath's computer-altered photos are based on earlier ones he exhibited, so although they may look familiar, they are actually larger and have subtly different details. Bonath creates fantasy worlds based on his imagination, but he makes them believable by incorporating readily identifiable things rendered precisely. Many of the Blessingsphotos include figures, such as "An Eventful Life Is a Book With Many Chapters," which depicts an older woman clutching a gigantic book. In others, like "Laws of Karma" and "Blessed Are the Damned," wooden carvings of hands stand in for people. There's a closing reception planned for February 2 from 6 to 10 p.m. Through February 6 at sellarsprojectspace, 4430 Tennyson Street, 303-242-5563. Reviewed January 18.

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.

(REAL): Photographic Constructs. An important show at the Center for Visual Art, being co-sponsored by the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, (REAL): Photographic Constructs was put together by CVA director Jennifer Garner and assistant director Cecily Cullen. The co-curators selected eight artists who are pushing photography to the breaking point, and the exhibit, which includes local talents as well as others from across the country, has been perfectly installed. It's essentially a series of individual presentations unfolding one after another. Among the standouts are the digital prints on Kool-Aid packets by Jon Rietfors; the flat still-life shots made 3-D in black-and-white photos by Zeke Berman; the installation of hinged wooden boxes incorporating photos by Gwen Laine; the sci-fi style multimedia piece with lightbulbs, wire, jars and digital images of trees by David Zimmer; and the digitally altered suburban psychodramas done in richly colored C-prints by Gregory Crewdsom. There are also marvelous things by Susan Harbage Page, Bruce Charlesworth and Meridel Rubenstein. Through February 23, Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207. Reviewed January 18.

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