Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

The American Landscape and Carny. Rule Gallery has typically presented single solos since landing in its new space several months ago, but this time, there are two different shows in that long and narrow sales room. The two work well together, though, as both are made up of photographs about America. One exhibit, The American Landscape, highlights dramatic color photos of the natural scenery of the West by Michael Eastman, an internationally famous photographer who lives in St. Louis. Eastman is not exclusively known for his landscapes; he also does interiors and other subjects — including Rodin's sculptures, his photos of which were recently published in a book illustrating a new translation of poet Rainer Maria Rilke's writings about them. The other show, Carny: Americana on the Midway, which is accompanied by a book, is made up of C-prints by Virginia Lee Hunter, a Los Angeles artist. As could be surmised by the title, Hunter's subjects are the denizens of the midway, but she does not take the Diane Arbus-y freak-show approach to her models; instead, she exploits the surrounding beauty of the carnival itself. Through September 1 at Rule Gallery, 227 Broadway, 303-777-9473.

Clyfford Still Unveiled. A master and pioneer of mid-twentieth-century abstract expressionism, painter Clyfford Still was something of an eccentric in the artist-as-egomaniac stripe. His antisocial behavior led to a situation where 94 percent of his artworks remained together after he died — a staggeringly complete chronicle of his oeuvre that is now owned by the City of Denver. As a planned Clyfford Still Museum won't be completed until 2010, the institution's founding director, Dean Sobel, decided to preview a baker's dozen of Still's creations at the Denver Art Museum. Sobel uses the very small show to lay out most of the artist's career and stylistic development. Still worked his way from regionalism to surrealism, then wound up developing abstract expressionism with one of the greatest abstract paintings imaginable, "1944 N No. 1" — and the rest is art history. Though too small to be considered a blockbuster, this exhibit is nonetheless an extremely important one that shouldn't be missed unless you aren't interested in art at all. Through September 30 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed July 26.

Eames 100: This Is the Trick. The exhibit's title refers to the fact that this year would have been furniture designer Charles Eames's one hundredth birthday, and the show was conceived as a celebration of his life's work. Eames, of course, is one of the most important designers of the twentieth century, and his pieces are ubiquitous features in airports, office buildings, schools, churches and homes across the country. Included are examples of his work as well as his arty collaborations with his second wife, Ray. The show was put together by Carla Hartman, who is Eames's granddaughter and a master teacher at the Eames Office in Los Angeles. She surveyed his career, with pieces taken mostly from her own Denver living room. But there are also some choice experimental models in the form of bent plywood leg studies, and twisted and welded metal bases. It's very unusual to get the chance to see such things, and amazing that these little beat-up bits were saved for all these years. Variations on the same conceptual theme, the studies reveal Eames's design process and his method of problem-solving. Through September 7 at Emmanuel Gallery on the Auraria campus, 303-556-8337. Reviewed August 23.

The Eclectic Eye. To inaugurate the recently unveiled expansion of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, director Michael De Marsche wanted to show off his new ability to accommodate temporary shows — something that wasn't feasible in the original building. So De Marsche brought in The Eclectic Eye: Pop and Illusion, highlighting the collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation in Los Angeles. The foundation owns important works by many of the biggest names active in vanguard art during the last half century. The pieces were purchased by the late Weisman, a zillionaire collector who started getting into contemporary art in the 1950s and who continued to snap things up until his death in 1994. This show, which began touring in 2005, features pieces by Andy Warhol, Robert Rosenquist, Keith Haring, Claus Oldenburg, Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Duane Hanson, David Hockney, Sigmar Polke and other art world luminaries. Through October 28 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581.

The Illusionist et al. The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting four shows for its summer season. In the main space are two solos that function as a duet. On one side is The Illusionist, made up of Lani Irwin's figurative paintings that are enigmatic and have a tight and stilted quality; on the other side are the paintings in Inscrutable Intent done by Alan Feltus, which are also figurative. Irwin and Feltus live together in Italy, and their paintings have something of a Scuola Romana flavor. Town and Country is a Mary Ehrin installation on display in the back gallery. Ehrin conjures up a dreamy and luxurious boudoir using found furniture, paint and notions like fringe. Ehrin, best known for her conceptual feather paintings of a few years ago, has in the last couple of years turned to creating environments with a feminine feel. Upstairs, Denver photo-artist David Zimmer is being treated to a ten-year retrospective of his quirky work in Ether. Zimmer is a master of combining antique-looking equipment with high-tech elements, like the glass domes over DVD screens. Through September 1 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 303-443-2122.

 
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