Balance. On the West 11th Avenue side of Fresh Art, the Mayor's Office of Economic Development has paid for a tiny sculpture garden as part of the long, ongoing Santa Fe Drive beautification project. The garden, composed of a group of rectangular forms made of cast concrete that serve as both pedestals and planter boxes, allows the current show to begin outside. Bolted onto the concrete are three elegant, welded-steel sculptures by that young three-dimensional wizard, David Mazza, one of the greatest sculptors working in the state today. There are more fabulous Mazzas inside, but Balance is more than his solo; it's a group show with lots to recommend it. There are neo-abstract-expressionist paintings by Hugh Daly, a recent transplant from Texas, and more abstracts by Brian Borrello from Oregon, who paints not with pigment but with dense, black motor oil. Finally, there are a handful of layered drawings by Norah Krogman, a Denver artist. The show doesn't completely hold together, but those spectacular Mazzas do help smooth out the rough edges. Through February 21 at Fresh Art Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-2200. Reviewed January 29.
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.
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Pursuits of Passion. Walker Fine Art has started booking well-known local artists, using their good names to attract visitors -- and it's working. Bill Vielehr, a noteworthy Colorado sculptor with a three-decades-long career under his belt, is the anchor of the latest exhibit, which pairs his sculptures with paintings by Christina Chalmers, an artist who is unknown in town. Vielehr's pieces, made of bronze or aluminum, are all closely related and always have sophisticated patinas. In some sense, Vielehr's sculptures are three-dimensional corollaries to abstract paintings: Each has a linear, as opposed to volumetric, composition based on the artist's instinctual sense for free association of simple forms. Interspersed with the Vielehrs are mixed-media paintings by Chalmers, a New York artist who spends part of each year in Provence. The uneven assortment of overly romantic paintings come from several different series and actually look like the work of several different artists. Through February 21 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, 303-355-8955. Reviewed January 29.
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.
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.