Aaron Karp, Sushe Felix, Delos Van Earl, Lynn Heitler. There are four single-artist shows at the William Havu Gallery: Aaron Karp, Sushe Felix, Delos Van Earl and Lynn Heitler. The first is Aaron Karp, mostly made up of large paintings that illustrate the New Mexico artist's classic style. Karp's paintings have a unique look that he achieves with masking tape and idiosyncratic subjects -- abstracted organic shapes arranged in an all-over composition. The paintings in Sushe Felix are neo-transcendental, a retro style that refers to the work of early modernists in the American West. Felix's compositions are like unassembled puzzles with an array of rectilinear, triangular and circular shapes scattered across the picture plane. The Delos Van Earl show includes only a handful of the California artist's painted wall sculptures, which are made of steel; they are geometric in composition and shape. Lynn Heitler is made up of a small group of floral monotypes and photo etchings by this established Denver artist, who is better known for her abstract expressionist pieces. Through June 5 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360. Reviewed May 27.
Abstractions on Paper. The current show at the city's coziest little art shop, the Emil Nelson Gallery, is a fascinating group endeavor put together by director Hugo Anderson. The exhibit combines historic and contemporary works in the forms of watercolors, prints, drawings and photos by more than two dozen artists -- making it a very big presentation, considering how small the Emil Nelson Gallery is. The mood is classic modernist with some very choice items by major artists, including Elaine deKooning, Stanley Hayter, Mauricio Lasansky and, of course, Herbert Bayer, a gallery favorite. Though the late Bayer, who was an Aspen resident, has been included in shows here before, the watercolors in this one are being publicly exhibited for the first time. One of them, an abstraction based on nature from the 1940s, has a decidedly Colorado look, having been done soon after he moved here. Among the regional contemporary artists in the show are Lanse Kleaveland, Sarah Vaeth and Irene Watts. Like the historic artists, these current practitioners have embraced classic abstraction. Through June 26 at the Emil Nelson Gallery, 1307 Bannock Street, 303-534-0996. Reviewed May 6.
John Buck and Manuel Neri. Sculpture is the main attraction at LoDo's Robischon Gallery, where the large solo, John Buck: New Sculpture, is paired with the tasty little confection, Manuel Neri: Sculpture/Drawings. Montana's Buck and California's Neri are among the most significant contemporary artists working out West. The Bucks, both sculptures and prints, are wonderful and represent a clear continuation of the work he's been doing for a long time. Buck's signature sculptures are torsos with elaborate abstractions where the figures' heads should be, making it easy to interpret that he's using the abstracts to convey the image of thinking. The Neri show has the mood of a museum offering, and it includes abstract figural sculpture -- Neri's acknowledged forte -- along with paintings on paper. Whether two dimensional or three, everything exemplifies Neri's signature style of one part classicism and one part funk. Through June 19 at the Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788. Reviewed May 20.
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 farm-worker rights. The Chavez display is the perfect set-up for The Migrant Project, which highlights farm workers' struggles using poetically composed black-and-white photos. Nahmias's approach is to capture the picturesque quality of rural life while also raising such issues as low wages and overcrowded living conditions. The handsome selenium prints with blurry borders recall traditional paintings. Nahmias has a brilliant sense for composition and for using the effects of reflected natural light. 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. Reviewed May 20.
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 sort 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. 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 works, 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.
scene Colorado/sin Colorado. The Denver Art Museum's local extravaganza, scene Colorado/sin Colorado, has quickly become one of the most talked-about shows this year. And that's no surprise, considering that it includes more than three dozen Colorado artists, represented by more than seventy works of art. Dianne Vanderlip, curator of modern and contemporary art, organized the exhibit, pulling work from the impressive holdings of the DAM's permanent collection. A couple of the artists no longer live here -- notably Gary Sweeney, whose piece inspired the show's title, and "genius grant" recipient Robert Adams -- but their works in this show were created when they did. Vanderlip decided to exclude deceased Colorado artists, and that's too bad. However, even with this limitation, she's undeniably assembled a worthy cavalcade of talent. The pieces date back over the past quarter-century, which is the period during which Vanderlip has held the modern and contemporary reins at the DAM. Though far from encyclopedic, the show does cover a lot of ground. Through August 22 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000.
W.O.W (words on wheels) W.O.P. (words on paper). By all reports, the Fresh Art Gallery should have been closed by now, but there's one last show, titled W.O.W (words on wheels) W.O.P. (words on paper). This solo exhibit occupies the entire set of spaces in the large gallery and showcases work done during the past year or so by one of Denver's most important and hardest-working artists, Roland Bernier. Both an abstract painter and a conceptual artist, Bernier has long used the aesthetic rather than the narrative possibilities of words to create his pieces. Those things he describes as being "words on wheels" are handsome and cerebral sculptures, wooden boxes that have been filled with stacks of letters cut out from the same wood. The letters are arranged into words, but taken together, the words don't make any sense. The boxes are mounted on castors so they can be moved, which is where the "wheels" come in. The "words on paper" portion comprises photocopied prints and other photo-based methods and includes a few pieces in which Bernier actually uses people. The show, organized and sponsored by Bernier himself, is an absolute must. Extended through June 4 at Fresh Art Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-2200. Reviewed May 27.