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 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed November 23.

Decades and 30x30. To celebrate its thirtieth anniversary, Robischon Gallery is presenting two special exhibits: Decades, featuring some of the blue-chip artists Robischon represents; and 30x30, a show dominated by artists from our region. The ten internationally renowned artists in Decades were chosen because each had their Denver debut at Robischon. As you might expect, this gorgeous group exhibition would be at home in any museum; among the artists included are Manuel Neri, the Luo Brothers, Judy Pfaff, Bernar Venet, Richard Serra and Robert Motherwell. The second celebratory show is 30x30, which is very different from Decades, but also very good. The gallery selected thirty artists from its stable and asked each to create a piece that's thirty inches by thirty inches. That's right: It's 30x30 by thirty. Most of these artists work in Colorado, and their participation reveals that this gallery represents some of the best in the state. Through February 24 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788. Reviewed February 8.

Japanese Art. The spectacular exhibit Japanese Art From the Colorado Collection of Kimiko and John Powers is installed in the Gallagher Family Gallery of the Denver Art Museum's new Hamilton Building. It was put together by Ron Otsuka, the esteemed curator of Asian art who has built an important collection during his thirty-plus years at the institution. Decades ago, Otsuka established a friendship with the Powerses, which is why they put their collection of more than 300 Japanese masterworks on long-term loan with the DAM. It's from this hoard that Otsuka chose the more than 100 objects he included in Japanese Art. As collectors, the Powerses were old-fashioned connoisseurs who chose things based on their innate fineness. "They were certainly very selective," says Otsuka in something of an understatement, considering the high quality of these pieces. The Powerses, who are also known for their stunning modern-art collection, sought out Japanese works of art that anticipate modernism despite that fact that they are hundreds of years old. Through September 9 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed January 25.

Fade, Denver. The MCA's only attraction in its Temporary Contemporary location is a single piece by a single artist. The work, which is extremely beautiful and visually luxurious, is Fade, Denver, by Austrian-born and New York-based artist Erwin Redl. As indicated by the title, the creation is part of Redl's "Fade" series, which he started in 2004 by creating computer-activated LED installations with the lights hanging in strips to define specific spaces. At the MCA, thousands of red lights enclose a circle like strings of beads from the ceiling. The lights dim and brighten according to a pre-set computer program. The red color in the dark room produces some unusual optical effects, such as making the lights appear to flash. Eventually we become accustomed to the darkness and can make out the room beyond the nearly continuous wall of lights. Whatever else can be said about this super-modest MCA, the Redl is a stunning visual experience. Through March 18 at the MCA Temporary Contemporary, 1840 15th Street, 303-298-7554. Reviewed February 15.

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 pushing photography to the breaking point. 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 multi-media piece with light bulbs, 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.

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.

Weekend in So Show. Making a striking aesthetic statement is not of paramount importance to Liam Gillick in Weekend in So Show, now at the still-nascent Laboratory for Art and Ideas at Belmar (aka the Lab). Gillick is more interested in telling some kind of story about politics, society and culture, and he uses language along with visual elements to do it. Gillick emerged in the 1990s as part of a generation of artists showing in London dubbed the "YBAs," which stands for Young British Artists. Lab director Adam Lerner invited Gillick to come to Belmar as a visiting artist. While in residence there, he worked with around a dozen students from the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, which is also in Lakewood. Despite this seeming collaboration, the resulting piece is signature Gillick, right down to the miles of wall text and the elegantly simple three-dimensional elements that recall the work of Donald Judd. Gillick used a documentary made by agitprop collective the Medvedkine Group about a strike in France as the starting point for his intriguing installation about rising expectations. Through April 1 at the Lab at Belmar, 404 South Upham Street, 303-934-1777. Reviewed February 15.

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