Sketches

Brief reviews of current shows

 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.

Magellan. Artist Mark Brasuell is using his solo, Magellan, as a celebration of his twenty years of exhibition history in Denver. Back in 1987, Brasuell was a grad student at the University of Denver who had just moved here from Texas, but he jumped into the long-established local art scene with both feet. Soon after, he became one of the original members of the Edge co-op, where he's exhibited annually; Magellan is his latest offering. The pieces are large, neo-abstract-expressionist drawings consistent with his signature style. What's different this time is his use of Mylar plastic sheeting in lieu of paper for his boldly colored drawings done in acrylic and oil pastels. The transparent sheets (mounted on white panels) allow Brasuell to create a deeper sense of three-dimensionality through layering. The title — Magellan — refers to a spiritual journey, according to the artist's statement, and he believes the drawings represent the culmination of his two-decade adventure in town. Through October 7 at Edge Gallery, 3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173. Opening reception Friday, September 14, from 7 to 10 p.m.

Masters in Clay. Among the specialty niches that Sandra Phillips Gallery on Santa Fe Drive has found is Colorado ceramics. For several years now, the gallery has showcased contemporary pieces by some of the best clay artists around, but with this show, Phillips has gone a step further. In addition to young talents, the gallery has added works by some acknowledged masters in the field. Paul Soldner, for example, is represented by pieces loaned by the American Ceramics Museum in California. Soldner was a protegé of Peter Voulkos and, like his mentor, a pioneer in abstract-expressionist ceramics. Soldner, now in his eighties, spent decades working in a studio in Basalt during the summers. Other key Colorado ceramicists featured here include the great Maynard Tischler and the remarkable Martha Daniels. Tischler does a variety of original forms, including sculptural vessels, while Daniels specializes in brightly colored abstracted figures. Filling out the roster are pieces by other noted Colorado artists including Carroll Hansen, Julie McNair, Amy Chavez, Bebe Alexander and Katie Caron. Through October 6 at Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 573-5969. Reviewed August 30.

Quasi Symmetries. As might be surmised by its scientific-sounding title, Quasi Symmetries, the subject of Clark Richert's solo is structure. For more than forty years, Richert has created geometric abstractions based on an interest in what he calls non-decorative patterns illustrating his theoretical postulates about the nature of reality. Say what? Luckily, none of his hard-to-understand ideas get in the way of his paintings, which can be appreciated on aesthetic grounds alone. Richert's elegant creations look absolutely perfect in the swank space at Rule. Though the newer pieces in this exhibit are notably lighter in palette and airier in composition than his earlier classic style, the recent works are clearly an outgrowth of the older examples; he creates all-over visual interest by making sure no one area is more eye-catching than any other. Richert is one of Colorado's most highly regarded and influential artists, and his efforts are invariably worth checking out. Consequently, Quasi Symmetries is one of the most important shows this season. Through November 3 at Rule Gallery, 227 Broadway, 303-777-9473. Opening reception Friday, September 14, from 6 to 9 p.m.

 
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