The 2017 edition of Denver’s biennial Month of Photography is a lot to swallow in a month — a good reason why MoP show openings are usually spread out over three of them. But don’t be daunted. There’s so much worth seeing in this community-wide effort, which this year loosely circles around the forward-thinking theme of “Between the Medium." And you don’t have to see it all in one night — because you can’t. So, in the words of the sage Funkadelic crew, free your mind and your ass will follow: Pace yourself and start with these events, listed in chronological order.
1. Ryan McGinley: The Kids Were Alright
Through August 20, 2017
The Kids Were Alright is an eyeful, and alone well worth the price of admission to the MCA, but it also fits seamlessly into the history lessons told by a trio of spring shows piecing together the house that DIY built (including Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979-1980 and Roger Gastman’s Wall Writers). A massive, no-holds-barred documentation of the modern tribalism of photographer Ryan McGinley’s lower-Manhattan millennial milieu, Kids was curated in-house for MCA by Nora Burnett Abrams (as was Basquiat) and has received national recognition, a nice feather in the rogue museum’s cap.
2. Presence: Reflections on the Middle East
Center for Visual Art/MSU
Through April 8, 2017
Artist talk with Golnar Adili: 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 29
Presence comes together fully realized in a way few exhibitions ever do: Meticulously woven together by the curatorial team of Cecily Cullen, Natascha Seideneck and Leila Armstrong, it’s a poignant look at what it’s like, in the here and now, to be part of the Muslim world, with points of view spreading from within its borders and throughout the reach of its diaspora. Well-paced and heavy, with beautiful, topical, experimental and sometimes worrisome photo-based imagery, Presence works both as a pointedly cultural statement and simply as an exhibit of fine art.
3. Double Exposure: An Exhibition of Photography and Video
Stop/Look/See: Photography by James Milmoe
Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
Through March 26, 2017
As is commonly the case in the Arvada Center galleries, Double Exposure celebrates Colorado artists, thanks to the educated eye of native curator Collin Parson, who’s grown up around many of them. Thirteen homegrown artists show off different approaches to photographic and video imagery in the juried show, which juxtaposes familiar local names with some not-so-familiar newcomers. Stop/Look/See, on the other hand, is a one-man show with many outcomes. An homage to veteran Colorado photographer Jim Milmoe, a founding member of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center in its earliest guise, it’s a grab-bag tribute to his versatility and longevity. Learn more when Milmoe gives a free artist talk at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 11, and see more of his work in a solo show opening March 3 at Pattern Shop Studio in RiNo.
4. Storm Warning: Artists on Climate Change & the Environment
Vicki Myhren Gallery, University of Denver
March 9 through April 30, 2017
Opening reception: 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 9
Curator Jeffrey Keith and DU’s Myhren Gallery go topical and multimedia for Month of Photography — and Earth Day 2017 — with Storm Warning, artists' views of environmental issues that have become more relevant than ever in the current political climate. The exhibit’s scope, just in terms of mediums explored, is generous, offering everything from installations to Instagram feeds to tell its stories, and the photographic visuals — J. Henry Fair’s terrifying Industrial Scars series and Chris Jordan’s documentary images of the effects of human refuse on the natural world — pack a powerful message. On April 13, the gallery will host a symposium, "On Balance: Art, Science and Politics in the 21st Century," with lectures and panels from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., concluding with an artist talk by Fair.
5. Between the Medium: Seeing Photographically
March 10 through April 9, 2017
Opening reception: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 11
Curator Mark Sink’s MoP centerpiece show at RedLine, Between the Medium: Seeing Photographically, takes off on new avenues in photography, where the basic medium crosses over into the less-explored realm of “photo-based” work. If you want to see what effects technology and new tools bring to the future of photography, this show will take you there. To complement the large group show, MoP and RedLine will host a lecture by photographic processes expert Mark Osterman of the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 28, and an artist walk-through at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 9. All events are free.
6. The Denver Collage Club
March 10 through April 24
Opening reception: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, March 10
The Denver Collage Club’s Mario Zoots pulls together another great MoP exhibition of a different color, showing how found imagery in new juxtapositions makes for spectacular visuals and altered meanings. Thanks to a global collage community accessible through the Internet, the artists represented range from local club members to national and international contributors, and it’s all good. Props for this partnership between the Denver Collage Club and the Tennyson Arts District’s hip Alto Gallery.
7. Unexplored Terrain
Walker Fine Art
March 10 through April 28, 2017
Opening reception: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 10
Bobbi Walker and Patti Hallock collaborated to jury and curate Unexplored Terrain, a group exhibition that sticks to MoP 2017’s mission to explore innovation in a relatively young medium. When you think about it, a genre that’s not quite 200 years old has a long way to go to catch up with painting and sculpture, but luckily, photographers have a technical side that pushes them to find new ways to retool the essential concepts of picture-making. Unexplored Terrain is full of eye candy produced in the mission to break boundaries: Dive in. There will be a second reception on First Friday in April.
8. Jess T. Dugan, Every Breath We Drew?
March 10 through April 9, 2017
Opening Reception: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 11
Like everything else in the medium, photographic portraiture is moving forward and branching out. Renowned and much awarded queer photographer Jess T. Dugan’s Every Breath We Drew, a Colorado Photographic Arts Center satellite show at RedLine, documents the transgender community she’s a part of by going beyond the captured faces to share the personal stories behind them. Dugan will also deliver a free lecture, “A Decade of Visual Activism,” looking back at past work and going forward with her ongoing project, To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews With Transgender and Gender-Variant Older Adults, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, in Waring Theater at Arapahoe Community College, in conjunction with ACC’s MoP show Champions of Change .
9. Stacey Steers, Trilogy
Kahn + Selesnick, Dreams of the Drowning World
Kiki Smith, select works from the artist’s Jacquard Tapestry series
March 16 to May 6, 2017
Opening reception: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 16
Robischon Gallery comes through with a trio of photo-based exhibits from gallery artists, beginning with delicate collage work from another trio: three painstakingly animated films — "Phantom Canyon,” "Night Hunter" and "Edge of Alchemy” — by Boulder artist Stacey Steers. Also on the slate is a new selection of Kahn + Selesnick’s elaborate and meticulously staged photographs, and works from Kiki Smith’s Jacquard Tapestry series, collaged works transformed into large-scale “tapestries” via an electronic loom fed by a digital file.
10. Process: The Altered Photo
March 18 through April 22, 2017
Opening reception: 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 18
Helikon showcases still more techniques for fiddling around with photos with Process: The Altered Photo, a diverse group show shedding light on the myriad ways in which artists can alter, manipulate and mark up photographic images.
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11. Critical Mass Top 50 Show: Markers of Time
April 7 through May 1, 2017
Opening reception: 6 to 9 p.m. April 7
Due to a caprice of timing and location, Critical Mass comes late to the dance with an April opening, but it’s worth waiting for. A juried international competition from the Portland nonprofit photography resource Photolucida, the show is the result of an extensive whittling process by more than 200 photo professionals and features the top fifty picks out of 200 finalists. If you want to see what’s happening now in photography around the world, catch this show while it’s on your doorstep.
For a complete rundown of Month of Photography 2017 exhibitions and events, visit the MoP website.