There's a lot of art to see in Denver right now. Many spaces have opened shows connected with the biennial Mo' Print project, including a major display at the McNichols Building. Nearby, the new Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art features not only the fabulous collection displayed in the Kirkland's previous incarnation, but a temporary gallery hosting Near and Far: Contrasting Regional and National Prints From the Kirkland and Mayer Collections. And you only have another week to catch Carlos Frésquez: Sangre Colorado. Keep reading for capsule reviews of those shows, as well as many more around town, in the order that they're closing.
Carlos Frésquez. The spectacular Carlos Frésquez: Sangre Colorado at Metro’s Center for Visual Art takes an in-depth look at one of the state’s most gifted and experimental artists. The sprawling exhibit was curated by the center’s exhibition director, Cecily Cullen, who knocked it out of the park with this one. Frésquez’s oeuvre presents pitfalls for curators, since he creates in various styles simultaneously, with similar ideas being worked out over decades. Cullen dealt with this by organizing the works thematically and not chronologically. Though a longtime player in the Chicano art scene, Frésquez was relentlessly synthesizing a wide range of non-Chicano influences as well, including neo-expressionism, neo-dada and post-pop. This universal direction accelerated in the late ’90s, when he co-founded the artist pair Los Supersónicos with Francisco Zamora, who encouraged Frésquez to take imagery as well as inspiration from everywhere. With border issues heating up, Frésquez has recently redefined his Chicano identity to include being part of the greater Latino community. Through March 24 at MSUD Center for Visual Art, 965 Santa Fe Drive, 303-294-5207, msudenver.edu/cva. Read the review of Carlos Frésquez: Sangre Colorado.
Mackey, Brasuell and Zyskowski. Two veterans are joined by a newcomer in a trio of compatible solos now at Spark Gallery. First up is Mary Mackey: Read Between the Lines, in which this longtime Denver artist combines collages, mixed-media paintings, prints and, surprisingly, ceramics. There’s no question that Mackey has been absorbing and translating the influences of other established Colorado artists, but she orchestrates the entire set of interpretations with her own overarching signature sensibility. For Mark Brasuell: (In) Particulate, the artist used the movable walls to remake his assigned space into something of a maze. Pinned to the walls are monumental drawings — some of them very monumental — done with pastels formulated and made by Brasuell himself. Though Brasuell has been creating enormous drawings for many years, these are different, with the saturation of the bold and often contrasting colors making them something of a link between his charcoals and his better-known paintings. Mackey invited Zack Zyskowski to take the final gallery; his promising Exercises includes works on paper that have all-over scribbled lines and marks. Through March 31 at Spark Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200, sparkgallery.com. Read the review of the three Spark shows.
10X: RedLine. To mark the tenth anniversary of its founding by Laura Merage, RedLine is presenting 10X: RedLine, a spectacular exhibit highlighting the artists who have been residents over the years. The enormous, unwieldy show fills all the galleries and spills out into the forecourt and parking lot. Curated by Cortney Lane Stell, it includes the work of most of the residents and reminds us that Stell is at her best when putting together a sprawling and ambitious group show: Making sense out of visual chaos apparently comes easily to her. 10X: RedLine proves how significant RedLine has been in the Mile High City’s visual culture, since it features the work of many of the most noteworthy contemporary artists working today in Colorado. In truth, some were already established when they became affiliated with RedLine. But most of the residents were emerging artists, and RedLine provided a big profile boost. Through April 1 at RedLine, 2350 Arapahoe Street, 303-296-4448, redlineart.org. Read the full review of 10X: RedLine.
Master Printmakers and Print Educators in Colorado. Denver’s Mo’ Print: Month of Printmaking 2018 is held every other spring. Among the many print offerings in the area is the more or less official one, Master Printmakers and Print Educators in Colorado, now at the McNichols Civic Center Building. The show was curated by a committee of the Invisible Museum that launched the first Mo’ Print back in 2014. Mark Lunning is the force behind the whole thing, and his retro futurist work is given a prominent place. Lunning does abstracts, and so do many of the other accomplished printers in the exhibit, including Sue Oehme, who’s interested in pulling off a soft constructivism. James Dormer and Gregory Santos are both making updated versions of classic abstraction, while Ashley Nason orchestrates sci-fi-ish elements to create pseudo abstracts. Another predominating current is representational imagery, including meticulous depictions of nature; Jean Gumpper and Theresa Haberkorn are standouts here. Though also nominally representational, the prints by Tony Ortega that combine altered photos with his signature depictions of Chicanos are more pop. And lots more. Through April 8 at the McNichols Civic Center Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue, 720-865-5550, mcnicholsbuilding.com. Read the review of Master Printmakers and Print Educators in Colorado.
Informed. Space Gallery was the headquarters gallery for Mo’ Print in 2016, and it does not disappoint this time with Informed – Print as an Influence, a major offering with an unusual twist: prints seen in the context of other mediums. Each of the included artists is given a separate section where mini-solos have been mounted. The show starts off with Monroe Hodder, whose latest paintings and prints are vaporous. Beyond is a large selection of watercolors and prints by Sue Oehme featuring an expressive geometry. Around the corner is Taiko Chandler’s Tyvek installation, in which she has printed and cut the plastic and folded it so that it comes out from the wall; adjacent are some of her swoopy and richly colored monoprints. Across are color field paintings with a running drip down the front by Patricia Aaron paired with prints picking up the same theme. In the corner are two artists whose work really resonates together: Diane Cionni and Pattie Lee Becker both do prints and works on paper using dense, layered and complex arrangements of individual components. Upstairs are works by Wendy Kowynia and Connie Saddlemire, who share a taste for earthy shades and simple compositions. Through April 7 at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive, 303-993-3321, spacegallery.org. Read the review of Informed.
Arthur Jafa. Arthur Jafa: Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death is dominated by a seven-minute video projection. Though Jafa is a cinematographer who works with the likes of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, for this title piece, “Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death,” he used found films and videos sourced from the Internet, many still with the watermarks of their copyright owners. The different clips include instances of police brutality against black men, racist silent films, shots of civil rights icons and black celebrities and athletes; at one point there’s the footage of President Barack Obama singing “Amazing Grace.” They move very fast, and the whole thing is set to Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” which he performed with a gospel choir. The clips display complex and at times contradictory meanings, pitting instances of black people being mistreated and vilified against other instances in which they are shown succeeding despite the obstacle of pervasive racism. This is a rare example of a riveting fine-art video. Through May 13 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, mcadenver.org. Read the full review of the MCA's current shows.
Diego Rodriguez-Warner. The eye-popping Diego Rodriguez-Warner: Honestly Lying showcases paintings depicting complex deconstructions of the figure done in toned-up colors. Rodriguez-Warner is a young artist whose career has been on a decidedly upward trajectory. He was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Denver; he studied art in Cuba and received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Curated by Zoe Larkins, this solo is over the top, with the entry wall hung salon-style so that the show starts off with a riot of colors and images. Rodriguez-Warner comes out of the printmaking tradition; you see evidence of this in the shallow carvings he makes in the surfaces of the plywood panels on which he paints. Looking over the dizzying mass of images that Rodriguez-Warner assembles, you begin to see that many of them come from the history of art, with sources including Japanese prints and Matisse. Also reflecting the history of art is the way in which many of these works seem to be parodying old paintings, in particular history paintings. Through May 13 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, mcadenver.org. Read the full review of the MCA's current shows.
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Cleon Peterson. An enormous vinyl wrap currently covers two sides of MCA Denver: It’s the first component of the impressive solo Cleon Peterson: Shadows of Men. Peterson’s imagery, both outside the museum and up on the second floor, consists of of aggressive men (and a few women) reduced to conventionalized and abstract forms so that at first they look like camouflage instead of what they are: people in combat. Sometimes the figures have been blown up to enormous sizes, as with the building wrap and some murals. At other times, in small paintings and porcelain figurines, the combative figures are represented in diminutive versions. There’s an undeniable classicism to Peterson’s work that evokes the art of ancient Greece, in particular ceramics. The footnote to antiquity is no accident, since Peterson believes that violence has typically been associated with the Greco-Roman tradition, right up to the Nazis. But those classical principles might also explain how effectively Peterson’s figures can be scaled up and down while still retaining their key characteristics. Through May 27 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, mcadenver.org. Read the full review of the MCA's current shows.
Near and Far. The new Kirkland Museum has a feature the old one didn’t: a gallery for temporary exhibits. For the premiere show in this space, Hugh Grant, the Kirkland’s director, has put together a print exhibit that has the paragraph-length title of Near and Far: Contrasting Regional and National Prints From the Kirkland and Mayer Collections. The enormous show includes more than eighty prints, most dating from the early to mid-twentieth century. There are several marvelous regionalist prints by the artists associated with the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center School and its predecessor, the Broadmoor Academy; these are at the top of the field for the period, with exemplars by the likes of Boardman Robinson, Adolf Deh and Frank Mechau. Of course, Vance Kirkland is also represented. The Colorado-associated artists are seen alongside big-league 1930s all-stars, including Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and Edward Hopper. The pre-World War II era was a heyday for American printmaking, particularly here in Colorado, but the show also includes mid-century modern prints by artists such as Mary Chenoweth and Werner Drewes, both of whom embraced abstraction. Through June 17 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1201 Bannock Street, 303-832-8576, kirklandmuseum.org.