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. The frontrunner in the current generation of Chinese artists, Zhang Huan, is not a pop artist, however, but a conceptualist; he's 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, 2003.
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.
The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers. California-based photographer Rick Nahmias was researching famed TV journalist Edward R. Murrow when he came upon Harvest of Shame, a 1960s documentary about farm workers. The Murrow film inspired Nahmias to revisit the topic, and the results are the dozens of wonderful photos that make up The Migrant Project at the Museo de las Américas. This traveling exhibit has been supplemented by a small salute to activist Cesar Chavez, who was a champion of farmworker rights. The Chavez display is the perfect setup for The Migrant Project, which highlights farmworkers' struggles using poetically composed black-and-white photos. Nahmias's approach is to capture the picturesque quality of rural life while raising such issues as low wages and overcrowded living conditions. Nahmias has a brilliant sense for composition and for using the effects of reflected natural light, and the handsome selenium prints with blurry borders recall traditional paintings. Through June 12 at the Museo de las Américas, 861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401. Reviewed April 29.
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North American Sculpture Exhibition. The selections for this year's North American Sculpture Exhibition at Foothills Art Center in Golden, were made by celebrity artist James Surls, who gained fame as in Texas but now lives in Colorado. For the always-important though invariably quirky show, Surls put together an oddball display dominated by figural sculptures; some of them are pretty uninspired and doctrinaire examples of neo-traditionalism, but others are convincingly contemporary. However, it's undeniable that Surls was very conservative in his picks. Artists in the show hail from around the country, but, as in the past, the single biggest group is from Colorado -- though there are fewer locals than ever and even fewer who are well known. Among the area artists who got their work through the aesthetic obstacle course set up by Surls are Patricia Aaron, Alicia Bailey, Marie E.v.B. Gibbons, Bonnie Ferrill Roman, Maureen K. Scott, Jan Steinhauser and Sumi Von Dassow. Among the many artists from elsewhere are Tyler Meadows Davis from Utah, Lazar Christian Fonkin from British Columbia and Jonathan W. Hils from Oklahoma. Through June 6 at the Foothills Art Center, 809 15th Street, Golden, 303-279-3922.
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.
The Painter's Eye: Colorado and the West. There's been increasing interest in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century art of the American West. LoDo's David Cook Fine Art has made this kind of thing its specialty, and the gallery's latest must-see offering is The Painter's Eye: Colorado and the West, which includes more than a hundred historic paintings, drawings and prints. The stunning exhibit opens on Thursday, May 6, with a reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Many of the artists in the show were associated with the famous Western art schools, including Colorado's Broadmoor Academy and the Laguna Art Association in California. There is an extensive group of traditional landscapes by local master Charles Partridge Adams, as well as gorgeous impressionist and expressionist paintings by the likes of Birger Sandzén and Edgar Alwin Payne. In addition to these viewer-friendly kinds of things, there are also examples of more advanced art -- in particular, social realism, including pieces by Boardman Robinson and Peppino Mangravite, and even modernism, with work by vanguard figures such as Andrew Dasburg and Doel Reed. Through June 26 at David Cook Fine Art, 1637 Wazee Street, 303-623-4817.
Robert Rauschenberg. Rule Gallery is currently featuring Robert Rauschenberg: Selected Prints, 1990-2001, a compelling show that highlights prints by this pop-art pioneer. Master printers from New York's Universal Limited Art Editions pulled all the Rauschenbergs here, and the artist has a longtime relationship with them. Though the prints in this exhibit date back only a decade or so, Rauschenberg's been associated with prominent print atelier Universal Limited for nearly half a century; he first met the studio's founder, Tatyana Grosman, in the late 1950s. Rauschenberg is known for using expressively altered photographic images laid over one another to create abstract compositions -- and evidence of his influence on generations of artists is ubiquitous. The Rule show samples three series by Rauschenberg: "Soviet/American Array," assemblages of photos taken in Russia and the United States; "Ground Rules," done in the unusual and archaic photogravure technique; and "Ruminations," which explores imagery of his own past. Through May 8 at Rule Gallery, 111 Broadway, 303-777-9473.