Now Showing

Capsule reviews of current 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 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 June 30 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed July 26.

Colorado Clay 2008. This biennial at the Foothills Art Center in Golden is the one constant in the state's ceramics world. For this edition, the somewhat skewed perspective of celebrity juror Richard Notkin is on view. To his credit, Notkin has been up front about his prejudices in favor of figurative imagery and against functional ceramics. One notable exception to this anti-functional sensibility is Jonathan Kaplan's vases, and I'd say his gorgeous work is the major revelation of the show. Kaplan's high standards of both art and craft are emphatically obvious. A real standout among the figural sculptors — a group that dominates the show — is Caroline Douglas. Her sculptures are examples of magic realism in which children's storybook characterizations are given an edgy feel. Stylistically related are the odd goth busts by Marie E.v.B. Gibbons, in which she combines casts of readymades with custom-done elements. Chandler Romeo is one of the only artists in the show doing contemporary sculpture, in the form of pedestals topped by earth-toned tiles that depict simplified topographical features. Through March 9 at the Foothills Art Center, 809 15th Street, Golden, 303-279-3299. Reviewed February 14.

Face East. Gallery co-directors Jim Robischon and Jennifer Doran usually go the extra mile to put together a great show, but in this case they went an extra few thousand, traveling all the way to China to pick out pieces for Face East, their salute to contemporary Chinese art. In many cases, they selected works right out of the studios and foundries where they were produced. The show includes more than fifty paintings, prints and sculptures by several of the biggest names in Chinese art as well as promising newcomers. Several of the artists do work that comments on Chinese politics, such as Sui Jainguo's untitled fiberglass Mao jackets or Suo Tan's "Fashion and Mao" busts, while others are more sociological, doing pieces that refer to the collision of East and West in today's China. There are some great sculptures by the Luo Brothers that pair traditional depictions of babies with cases of Pepsi, and the fabulous monumental striding peasant with a sow over his shoulders by Chen Wenling. In a quieter mood are He Jian's paper pieces about the life of Chinese youth. Through March 1 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788. Reviewed February 7.

Grounded. This good-looking exhibit pairs recent landscape-based abstract paintings by Lui Ferreyra with photos recording roadside landmarks by Peter Brown. Ferreyra fractures the imagery in his distinctive work by reducing it to non-repeating patterns of geometric shapes. There are reverberations of cubism in this, as well as references to digitization and, believe it or not, paint-by-numbers. The forms, in this case mountains, are merely suggested as opposed to being literally defined. Different shapes are carried out in different colors, with the artist turning to these colors (more than to their shapes) to distinguish features of the landscape. Brown, whose large-format Cibachrome prints capture the vanishing rural life of the West, uses a deep focus, which brings viewers into the pictures. He often looks for minimalist scenes like a tabletop-flat field plowed into straight furrows, unfolding beneath a crystal-clear sky. In others, he appropriates the informal monumentality of boarded-up stores or rusting farm buildings. Through February 23 at Sandy Carson Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585. Reviewed January 17.

Impressionist and Modern Masters. This large show has been installed in the second-floor galleries of the new wing at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. A traveling endeavor, the exhibit is meant to bring attention to the beleaguered New Orleans Museum of Art by showcasing its collection and to get a good deal of it out of town while the building undergoes reconstruction necessitated by the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Rather than a look at 19th-century impressionism and 20th-century modernism, as you'd expect, this blockbuster is more broadly based, constituting a greatest-hits survey of the NOMA's collection that also includes pieces from the 17th and 18th centuries. That's why the show represents a solid offering with a lot to teach about the art of Europe and the United States over the last several centuries. And the intelligent installation, which is based on a historic perspective and divides the material into three distinct phases, underscores the sequential nature of the development of art as it inevitably marched toward modernism. Through March 9 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581. Reviewed January 24.

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