Don Stinson, Chuck Forsman and Eric Paddock/Jim Colbert. The Western landscape's natural beauty has taken hold of the imagination of generations of artists, but during the last twenty years, some have chosen to examine the stickier topic of civilization's affect on the scenery. This intellectual approach is the collective theme of a group of exhibits at Robischon Gallery. In the front is Don Stinson: Art and Ruins, which includes three monumental representational paintings of three separate conceptual earthworks from the '60s and '70s along with his more familiar views of abandoned drive-ins and motels. In the middle spaces is Chuck Forsman, which is made up of photos from the artist's book, Western Rider: Views From a Car Window. Forsman is best known as a painter, but it turns out that he has also been taking photos for decades. In the Viewing Room Gallery is Eric Paddock/Jim Colbert, which combines Western landscape photos from Paddock's book, Belonging to the West, with paintings of the same subject by Colbert. Through April 10 at the Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788.
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.
Hidden Images. On the mezzanine of Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art is Hidden Images, which is dedicated to recent work by major contemporary Czech artist Adéla Matasová. The show is made up of a handful of things, including a group of conceptual installations that reconcile minimalism to movement. Three of the pieces in Hidden Images turn the concept of color-field painting on its head, because Matasová added a kinetic feature that gives the works changing surfaces and, therefore, changing imagery. To create them, she stretched silver-colored elastic fabric over large, rectangular frameworks; hidden underneath are mechanical features that push forms out from the back of the fabric, thus creating shifting shadow patterns. The pieces are gorgeous and extremely smart, making the show both captivating and provocative. The mezzanine at the MCA is ordinarily used for overflow from downstairs shows instead of as a separate exhibition venue, as it is for Hidden Images -- and clearly the latter is a better use for it. Through May 9 at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554. Reviewed March 11.
IGOR MOUKHIN. Camera Obscura Gallery is presenting an impressive solo, IGOR MOUKHIN: Contemporary Russian Photography, which examines the work of one of the former Soviet Union's most famous contemporary photographers. Moukhin gained prominence in the 1980s as part of a generation of underground artists who emerged in Moscow during the final years of Soviet rule. One series, started at that time, recorded crumbling Soviet monuments, while another comprised portraits of Russian artists, including those who fled to the West. There's no question, however, that the photographer's candid street shots, done both in his home town and in Paris, are what established his international reputation. The show at Camera Obscura includes many of his most famous images, including several of those street photos. Interestingly, this offering is one of two Moukhin exhibits being presented locally; the other is at the Hatton Gallery on the Colorado State University campus, where Moukhin is a visiting artist this term. Through May 2 at Camera Obscura Gallery, 1309 Bannock Street, 303-623-4059.
Malfunction Junction and Silent Sounds. The most talked-about new art spot in Denver is + Zeile/Judish Gallery, and shows such as Malfunction Junction, an installation by Susan Meyer, is only the latest reason why. Meyer, a Denver artist who's been doing installation art for years, addresses the ups and downs of life using the metaphor of a roller coaster. The piece, made specifically for this show, apes the form of a coaster's supporting trestles, using wood and the track bed (though there are no tracks) outlined in lightbulbs. The analogy is pretty simplistic, but Meyer's monumental installation is completely captivating nonetheless. Silent Sounds is an exhibit of mixed-media paintings by Seattle artist Stefan Knorr. These paintings, which are essentially updates on surrealism, are composed of assemblages of found imagery from the popular media. The disparate and broken images are unified by abstract passages of paint. A reception for both shows is set for Thursday, March 4, at 6 p.m.; the exhibits run through April 3. + Zeile/Judish Gallery, 2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-2546. Reviewed March 11.
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. Reviewed February 12.
Over A Billion Served. The main winter exhibit at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art is by Julie Segraves, executive director of Denver's Asian Art Coordinating Council, who brought together photos by eleven important conceptual artists now working in China. Conceptual photography is new in China, but so is photography itself, with the widespread availability of cameras dating back only to the 1980s. Segraves has divided the show into three parts: "Strangers in the Cities," which examines the effect of social change on the Chinese people; "Power Politics," which looks at the effect of the Chinese Communist Party; and "The McDonaldization of China," which is self-explanatory. This exhibit is absolutely awesome, and the photos in it are so unusual and so good that they will leave a lasting impression on anyone who sees them. Through May 9 at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554. Reviewed February 19.
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Random Factors. The latest show to be added to this season's clay cavalcade is Random Factors, at the Space Gallery, featuring incredible ceramic sculptures and bas-reliefs by Mike Rand, who was born in Leadville and now lives in Carbondale. A significant ceramics scene developed in the towns around Aspen beginning in the 1960s, and by the '70s, it was exerting a worldwide influence. Rand is too young to have participated in this golden age of ceramics in the Colorado Rockies, as he was born at the tail end of it. But through osmosis, he's channeled the scene's collective spirit with work that combines Asian influences and the lessons of abstract expressionism, the signature style up there. To create his sculptures, Rand uses the functional vessel form (he must be a fanatic at the potter's wheel, because the show includes hundreds of expressively thrown pots), then stacks them together as part of larger compositions. Had the pots been finished straightforwardly as vases, they'd still be damned good. Through March 28 at the Space Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-308-0105. Reviewed March 18.
True Grit and Louise Bourgeois. There are two significant shows at the Metro State Center for the Visual Arts, both of which explore the topic of women in the arts. The first is a traveling exhibit, True Grit: Seven Visionaries Before Feminism, which examines the work of a group of modernists who gained prominence in the 1950s and '60s. The seven artists, all of whom are world-famous, are Louise Nevelson, Jay DeFeo, Lee Bonticou, Nancy Grossman, Claire Falkenstein, Nancy Spero and Louise Bourgeois. Though all launched their careers before the rise of feminism, the movement has been very good for their ever-growing reputations; if their names are familiar today, it's because feminists in the art world have championed their work for decades. The second show is Louise Bourgeois: Selections From the Collection of Ginny Williams, a Bourgeois solo organized by CVA director Kathy Andrews. Denver collector Williams has one of the largest Bourgeois collections anywhere, and this is a rare opportunity to see some of it. Through April 24 at the Center for the Visual Arts, 1723 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207.
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.
Wet Paint. Though this is being billed as a group show, Wet Paint at the William Havu Gallery is actually a combination of three strong and expansive solos. In the front space, and in the nooks and crannies around it, are Jeffrey Keith's recent all-over abstractions that loosely refer to geometric abstraction. In the window space and around the base of the staircase are abstracts that are densely populated with John Himmelfarb's drawn elements, some of them cartoonish. And finally, in the space in the middle and under the mezzanine are Michael Rubin's out-of-this-world neo-abstract-expressionist monochrome paintings. All three artists' paintings are closely related stylistically, but each has a distinctly different approach, so there's no mistaking who's who. Because the three artists live and work in different big cities, with Keith here in Denver, Himmelfarb in Chicago, and Rubin in New York, Wet Paint proves that classic contemporary abstraction is still relevant. Through April 10 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360. Reviewed March 18.