Balance. On the West Ninth 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.
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. Reviewed February 5.
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.
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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.
Superhighway and Director's Choice. Ivar Zeile and Ron Judish have launched the city's newest art hot spot, (+) Zeile/Judish Gallery, in the old Cordell Taylor location, and the venue's two inaugural exhibits are knockouts. In the front space is the elegant Superhighway, featuring photo-based works by R. Scott Davis, an artist who divides his time between New York City and Denver. Several of these pieces are about Denver's T-Rex project, and although they're photo-based, they resemble geometric abstracts with dynamic diagonals running across the middle. In the back is a group show called Director's Choice. First up are neo-pop constructions by Glenwood Springs artist Jon Rietfors, which incorporate mass-produced food packages. Next are luminescent abstractions in mixed media by Aspenite Hunt Rettig and intriguing C-print photos by Longmont's Patti Hallock that depict suburban scenes at dusk. Superhighway and Director's Choice prove that the partnership between Zeile and Judish will benefit us all. Through February 19 at (+) Zeile/Judish Gallery, 2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927. Reviewed February 5.
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. Reviewed February 5.