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Capsule reviews of exhibits

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 anti-social 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 June 30, 2008, at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed July 26.

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.

Kevin O'Connell and Richard Van Pelt. Longtime Regis University photography professor Willy Sutton has organized two impressive exhibits, Kevin O'Connell and Richard Van Pelt, and installed them at the university's O'Sullivan Art Gallery as a single presentation. O'Connell is one of the state's premier photographers, known for his luxuriously done platinum prints of the Colorado plains. For these newer pieces, however, he's turned on the color, and his exuberant depictions of the verdant environment of Seattle are, conceptually, the total opposite of his minimalist plains pictures. The radical shift makes sense considering that the color photos mark his perilous journey through a bone-marrow transplant. The two series of tree photos are taken from within the woods, which figuratively envelop the viewer. Van Pelt's carbon prints of patches of wilderness in the open spaces of his home town of Boulder work beautifully with the O'Connells. Van Pelt's idea is the juxtaposition of development and nature. Through October 5 at the O'Sullivan Art Gallery on the Regis University campus, 3333 Regis Boulevard, 303-964-3634. Reviewed September 13.

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. Reviewed September 20.

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.

Position and Drift. Amy Metier is an abstract artist who carries on regardless of the current taste for conceptual realism. Her latest expressionist compositions are being shown off to great effect in her knockout solo, Position and Drift, at William Havu Gallery. Metier, who is on just about everyone's list of the most important painters in Colorado, has been exhibiting her colorful and decidedly retro takes on classic modernism for more than twenty years. Position and Drift is filled with signature work, much of it monumental in size. Taken together, these pieces are a riot of color, with Metier marshaling any number of strong luxurious shades and piling them on top of, and next to, one another. Viewers may be forgiven for mistaking them for examples of abstract expressionism even though they're technically more akin to neo-impressionism; there are recognizable subjects, typically landscapes, underneath all those streaks and smears, providing the paintings with formal structure and automatically juxtaposing the horizontal with the vertical. Through November 3 at William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360. Reviewed September 20.

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. Reviewed September 20.

Stefan Kleinschuster. For his swan song as the outgoing director of the Phillip J. Steele Gallery, Eric Shumake is presenting Stefan Kleinschuster: 10 Ways to Kill a Hero. As the title suggests, these ten paintings are about memento mori -- the moment of death. As a unifying theme for art works, this is undeniably a downer, but it's a topic that's persisted among artists for centuries. And the sobriety is lessened somewhat by the bold colors and cheery tones Kleinschuster uses to suggest the ideas of redemption and absolution. From a distance, the abstract imagery comes into focus, but as the viewer gets closer, the representations begin to dissolve under the lyrical brushwork. Kleinschuster says the paintings of martyrs from the annals of European art history were one of his inspirations, but none of these pieces literally refer to those sources. As might be expected considering the lofty focus, the works are monumental, as are the figures depicted in them. Through October 20 at the Phillip J. Steele Gallery, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, 1600 Pierce Street, 303-225-8575.

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