Denver collecting couple Jill Wiltse and Kirk Brown have really raised their art profile this season. At the same time the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building was being unveiled last October, Wiltse and Brown put on an important historical show at the Emmanuel Gallery called Treasures Revealed: The Art of Hungary, 1890-1955, which examined the rise of modernism in that country.
The Hungarian show was curated by Shanna Shelby, and Wiltse and Brown tapped her talents again for two shows about modernist textiles from Britain -- both of which are approaching the end of their run at the Phillip J. Steele Gallery. The Steele is housed in the Mary K. Harris Auditorium at the east end of the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design campus (1600 Pierce Street, 303-225-8574). In the west gallery is Fashion Art: Ascher Scarves From Post-War England, and in the east gallery is Lucienne Day: Queen of 1950s British Textile Design.
It makes sense to begin with the Ascher show, because it reflects an earlier period than the Day exhibit. Not only that, but it could be said that the Ascher pieces set the stage for those in the Day. Zika and Lida Ascher were Czech refugees in London when they started a textile business in 1939. One of the things the couple did was screen-print on square silk scarves. What makes the scarves remarkable is that the designs were done by major artists of the time, including Marie Laurencin, Henry Moore, Henri Matisse and Jean Cocteau, whose "Visage," from 1947, is pictured.
Lucienne Day was the premier fabric designer in Britain in the mid-twentieth century, and her screen-printed yard goods were done for Heals Furnishing Fabrics. Day, who was married to furniture designer Robin Day, was adept in creating all-over patterns of shapes taken straight from abstract painting; the references to Miró and Calder are everywhere in the more than twenty examples on display.
Both Fashion Art and Lucienne Day were handsomely installed by new Steele director Eric Shumake. The shows close this Saturday, February 3. My advice is to try to get out there and see them.