Land Ho!

Colorado is looking good in this two-part landscape exhibit at Robischon and CVA.

Kitchel, who used to live in Colorado but now lives in California, takes an interesting tactic regarding the Western landscape: Instead of showing sweeping vistas, she takes a close-up of the grasses and weeds that cover the ground. Kitchel then places the ordinarily unseen and unrecorded aspects of the landscape in a conceptual framework; for example, her serial paintings often reveal the passage of time, or the course of a journey, such as a walk in the fields. In Natural Order, it's predator-versus-prey in the tall grasses, with a snake pursuing a rabbit. Set into different acts represented by different multi-panel paintings, the "opera" begins with nothing other than the plants themselves, but then, slowly — and very subtly — the life-and-death drama unfolds.

Life and death is also relevant to the beginning of the second part of Landscapes of Colorado, with a small solo being given over to Jim Colbert, including his preliminary sketches and photos arranged on shelves. Earlier this summer, Colbert committed suicide, and that sad event led to this homage and the dedication of this show to his memory. Colbert's work does not show his desperate emotional state; his hyper-realist style is filled with rich, bright colors that are, if anything, uplifting. Typical of his style is the gorgeous "I Died 1000 Times" (pictured), which not only captures the majesty of the surroundings but also the damage being done to it by humanity.

Colbert was one of the region's most accomplished contemporary-representational painters, and beyond his section are others who have also built distinguished careers with new interpretations of the Western landscape, including Don Stinson and Chuck Forsman. Though now in South Carolina, John Hull lived in Colorado for a decade, and his pieces put a noir twist on Southern Colorado. He inhabited his pictures with dangerous-looking characters that seem to be up to no good. Across from the Hulls are paintings with a different kind of edge: Stephen Batura's acrylic-and-casein paintings that are based on archival photos. I can't leave out the renderings of the Rocky Mountain News Building being demolished by Rick Dula.

"I Died 1000 Times," by Jim Colbert, oil on canvas.
"I Died 1000 Times," by Jim Colbert, oil on canvas.

Details

Landscapes of Colorado
Through August 26, Center for Visual Art, 1743 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207, www.mscd.edu/news/cva/.

Landscapes of Colorado and Natural Order
Through September 1, Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, www.robischongallery.com.

Also, check out this virtual tour of the Center for Visual Art's side of the show.

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There are also a number of photographers in the Robischon section of Landscapes of Colorado, including an in-depth array of Eric Paddock's sociological shots of small towns, Kevin O'Connell's dreamy platinum prints of the horizon line, and David Sharpe's remarkable pinhole photo enlargements from his "Eastern Phenomenon" series that is set on the plains.

Ann Daley's effort to come up with a "big tent" under which artists taking antithetical aesthetic paths are brought together is definitely a noble cause. And her ideas are intelligent and well thought out. But for me, contemporary art, in that it reflects the world in which we live now, makes a lot more sense than traditional art, which looks back to a golden age that no longer exists — and maybe never did.

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