Full Frontal: Contemporary Asian Art from the Logan Collection. The normal stock in trade for the Denver Art Museum's Asian-art curator, Ron Otsuka, is traditional styles, but he's been drafted into doing contemporary duty by a gift that includes more than a score of pieces by Asian and Asian-American artists. The recently acquired booty provided Otsuka with the opportunity to explore new Asian art in Full Frontal: Contemporary Asian Art from the Logan Collection, now on display in the William Sharpless Jackson Jr. Gallery on the museum's fifth floor. Most of the standouts are neo-pop, such as Yu Youhan's "Mao Decorated," which is based not on the famous traditional portrait, but on Warhol's version. However, the front-runner among the current generation of Chinese artists, Zhang Huan, is not a pop artist, but a conceptualist. Huan is represented by a photo that documents a performance in which he coated his body with ground hot dogs and then had actual dogs lick it off him. The show may be small, but it's bold. Through May 23 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 1-888-903-0278. Reviewed December 11.
Jae Ko, et al. The Robischon Gallery set the standard for art exhibitions in Denver, and the current offerings reinforce that point. In the front is Jae Ko: New Sculpture; in the middle is Ross Bleckner, Terry Maker, Brad Miller; and, in the back is Judy Pfaff. The mood may be austere, but Ko's remarkable modernist wall-hung sculptures made of inked adding-machine tape are actually pretty sumptuous. Bleckner starts things off in the center space with a handful of his famous prints depicting naturalistic shapes in scatter patterns. Next comes the work of Maker, who uses that most ubiquitous of mediums: acrylic on canvas. But that's not the half of it -- she rolls up the canvases and adheres the rolls into blocks that are then sliced with power tools. Brad Miller, the last of the trio, is represented by a lyrical group of artworks that could be called drawings except for one little thing: They were made with a torch. The cavalcade of hits continues into the Viewing Room, where Judy Pfaff is ensconced. It's modest in size but is surely one of the most significant shows in town right now. Through February 21 at the Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788. Reviewed January 22.
No Joke and No Yokel. This year's interdisciplinary program at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture at the Jewish Community Center focuses on comics as an art form. It includes a panel discussion, a film series and two notable exhibitions: No Joke: The Spirit of American Comic Books, in the Singer Gallery, and No Yokel: The Spirit of Denver Comic Artists, next door in the Balcony Gallery. No Joke was flawlessly installed and intelligently organized by Singer director Simon Zalkind. One of the city's most accomplished, ambitious and creative curators, Zalkind is normally interested in high culture, so it's a surprise to see how surefooted he is in this popular-cultural realm. For No Joke, he scoured collections across the country to find original drawings by such legendary historic and contemporary comics artists as Al Capp, Howard Cruse, Mort Drucker, Art Spiegelman and a dozen more. Tom Motley, who put together the No Yokel exhibit, also created a mural depicting the history of comics. Through March 28 at the Mizel Center, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-399-2660.
Picasso: 25 Years of Edition Ceramics From the Edward and Ann Weston Collection. The Metro State Center for the Visual Arts is hosting this must-see traveling show of Picasso's experiments with clay. Beginning in 1947 and at regular intervals until 1971, Picasso would go to the Madoura studio of Georges and Suzanne Ramié in Vallauris, France, and do ceramics with them during brief, if intensely creative, visits. The Ramiés formed plates, bowls, vases and other pottery items that Picasso then carved and manipulated while the clay was still wet. Finally, Picasso painted them with glazes in his own inimitable way, decorating the surfaces with images of the kinds of strange animals and figures that had already been made famous in his paintings. The resulting pieces were the prototypes for the handmade limited editions on display in Picasso: 25 Years of Edition Ceramics. This type of collaborative and serial approach to studio ceramics may seem strange by American standards, but it's a tried-and-true practice in countries such as France. Through February 28 at the Metro State Center for the Visual Arts, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207.
ROBERT COLESCOTT & GLENN LIGON. This noteworthy effort is the first in a planned series of exhibits at the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver. The series will explore the more than 200 works of contemporary art that has been promised to the Denver Art Museum by high-profile collectors Vicki and Kent Logan. This show represents a new era of cooperation between DU and the DAM, even garnering DU access to the Logans' private stash. Shannen Hill, a DU art historian, organized the show, and her expertise in African and African-American art was put to good use, as Colescott and Ligon are currently among the most prominent black artists nationally. Both artists address the African-American experience, but that's where the similarities end. Colescott is an expressionist, mixing a faux-naive style with references to everyday experience. In contrast, Ligon is post-pop and often employs photo-based techniques that result in super-sophisticated pieces. Through February 27 at the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery, 2121 East Asbury Avenue, 303-871-2846.
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Spark 2004. Spark has two dozen members, but only two small exhibition rooms, meaning that it's pretty packed for this year's annual members' show, in which everyone is represented. As with any show that brings together disparate work, Spark 2004 is more than a little uneven, with some good things and others that are downright awful. Among the highlights are a couple of those thoughtful Annalee Schorr pieces that lampoon the mass media. Nearby is Sue Simon's "Point of View," an abstract based on mathematics, and just beyond that is a tray full of edible-looking plastic cupcakes by Elaine Ricklin, who sensibly accompanied them with a sign warning people not to eat them. Across the room are three tiny abstractions by Barbara Carpenter that look like paintings but are actually Fujichrome Supergloss photographs. Around the corner, in the backspace, is a marvelous expressionistic monotype with chine collé panels by John Matlack. Patricia Aaron's piece, "Ball Buster II," is an installation of colored bowling balls hung from the ceiling, an absurd idea, but pretty attractive. Through February 15 at Spark Gallery, 1535 Platte Street, 303-455-4435. Reviewed January 22.
Vance Kirkland. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the late Vance Kirkland's birth. In honor of the centennial, the Colorado History Museum has mounted a salute to the legendary Colorado artist with the epic title of Vance Kirkland: A Colorado Painter's Life, Early Works and Beyond. Though there are some remarkable early Kirklands in the show, notably a full-sized pencil sketch for a WPA-era mural, the exhibit includes lots more than that. First, there is the work of nearly twenty of Kirkland's friends and colleagues -- among the modern artists in the state from the mid-twentieth century -- and even some contemporary art. Second, interspersed throughout is a design show surveying furniture, pottery and other decorative arts from 1900 to the 1960s. This over-the-top approach can only mean one thing: Hugh Grant, director of the Kirkland Museum, orchestrated it. Grant was a co-curator of the show, and nearly all the art and artifacts in it were selected personally by him and loaned to the CHM from the Kirkland's fabulous collection. Through April 4 at the Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway, 303-866-3682. Reviewed December 25.
The Vessel: Voyage & Contain. For its first effort of 2004, the William Havu Gallery in the Golden Triangle is presenting a theme outing. Included in the show are ceramics, sculptures and even paintings. Gallery director William Havu organized it and interpreted the word "vessel" to include not only containers such as vases and bowls, but also boats. The grand dame of Denver ceramics, Martha Daniels, is represented by signature examples of her idiosyncratic style, such as her theatrical sculptural urns in rich flambé finishes that simultaneously parody and pay homage to the forms of classical antiquity. Also respecting tradition while being contemporary are the truly monumental vases by boy wonder Anthony Sarenpa that eloquently display his breathtaking skill at the wheel. Compelling abstract sculptures by Michael Clapper, Margaret Haydon, Margaret Josey-Parker, Darlene Nguyen-Ely and Bernice Strawn and lyrical abstract paintings by Joanne Kerrihard are part of the festivities as well. Through February 21 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360.