Reviewed: Six Art Shows to See in Denver Right Now!

"Manuel," by Don Coen, at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
"Manuel," by Don Coen, at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
Courtesy of the artist

There's lots of great art to see in metro Denver this weekend. Here are capsule review of six worthwhile shows along the Front Range, in the order that they're closing.

Basquiat installation at MCA Denver.
Basquiat installation at MCA Denver.
Kelly Shroads Photography

Basquiat Before Basquiat. MCA Denver’s Nora Burnett Abrams curated the widely heralded Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979-1980, a chronicle of the year that a not-yet-famous Jean Michel Basquiat shared an apartment with Alexis Adler. For whatever reason, Adler preserved everything that Basquiat left behind when he split. The show begins with photo enlargements of the apartment’s graffiti-covered hallway, which includes examples of Basquiat’s “SAMO,” his first identity in the East Village and a tag by which he conveyed the sentiment “Same Old Shit.” The Adler collection has two components: pieces by Basquiat; and photos of Basquiat and of lost works taken by Adler. Among the Basquiats are sheets from notebooks, some with nothing other than text in his no-frills printing style. The small sketches and drawings feature certain devices, notably the zigzag that would become part of his signature style just a year or so later. To help connect things, Abrams has included a choice example of his full-blown expression, 1984’s “Untitled (Cadmium).” In 1988, like a rock star, Basquiat died of a drug overdose. Through May 7 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, mcadenver.org. Read the review of Basquiat Before Basquiat.

Carroll Dunham, "Shootist," 2000.
Carroll Dunham, "Shootist," 2000.
Denver Art Museum

Audacious. Last summer, Rebecca Hart took the rudder of the Denver Art Museum’s Modern and Contemporary department, and Audacious: Contemporary Artists Speak Out, in the main galleries on the third level of the DAM’s Hamilton Building, is her debut effort. Although Audacious is meant to showcase objects from the DAM’s permanent collection, this particular assortment has been heavily salted with pieces from the private holdings of Kent and Vicki Logan. The largesse of other important donors is included, too, but to a lesser extent. Among the standouts are several works by American artists such as Philip Guston, Robert Colescott, David Hammons, Barbara Kruger, Brian Alfred and Ben Jackel. There’s also a big European presence, especially among the YBA (Young British Artists), who are now, alas, not so young. First among these is Damien Hirst’s “Do you know what I like about you?,” from 1994. Chinese art likewise plays a large role in Audacious, and there are even some Colorado artists included, among them Tony Ortega, Jack Balas and Viviane Le Courtois. Extended through May 14 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, denverartmuseum.org.

“Jack,” by Don Coen, airbrush acrylic and pencil on canvas.
“Jack,” by Don Coen, airbrush acrylic and pencil on canvas.
Courtesy of the artist

Don Coen. One of several noteworthy exhibits on view at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center right now is Don Coen: The Migrant Series, which comprises heroic over-sized photo-realist paintings, most of them portraits, depicting Mexican migrant farmworkers. Although the Boulder County painter, an acknowledged Colorado master, does not intend for these paintings to be political, they read that way. In the Trump era, with the president relentlessly vilifying undocumented Mexican workers, deciding to ennoble them, as Coen has, is inevitably political. Among the fifteen paintings, there’s not one false note. Most are close-ups of faces that link them to the work of Chuck Close. In “Jack,” a young, handsome guy in a yellow bandanna flashes a Mona Lisa smile at the viewer. Conveying a similar sense of resignation is the impassive expression on the face of “Liliana,” whose wide-brimmed straw hat beautifully frames her lovely face. Probably the most remarkable feature of The Migrant Series is the way the paintings show off Coen’s tremendous skill. Through May 21 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581, csfineartscenter.org. Read the review of The Migrant Series.

Keep reading for more shows around town.



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