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.
birds of a feather. There's a touching two-part exhibit at Edge Gallery in honor of Roger M. Beltrami, a longtime co-op member who died earlier this year. The show, birds of a feather, has two parts: In the front space is a memorial presentation featuring Beltrami's own work; in the middle space are other artists' works dedicated to the artist's memory. Beltrami moved to Colorado in 1972. In the '80s, his life was rocked by the AIDS crisis when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive; he later became an AIDS activist. His partner, Wayne Alan Lee, curated the memorial at Edge, installing a re-creation of Beltrami's bedroom wall. The rest of the show is made up of the late artist's sand paintings, which are amazingly varied in style, considering that Beltrami used only straight lines and a limited palette when creating them. In the center space, Sara-Lou Klein McKlayer organized the group salute inspired by another kind of Beltrami work -- his bird's nests. Among those who participated are Mary Cay, Mark Brasuell, Jerry Simpson, Sue Simon, Gail Wagner, Tim Flynn, Reed Weimer and Zoa Ace. Through June 13 at Edge Gallery, 3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173. Reviewed on June 3.
Dale Chisman: New Paintings. With Dale Chisman: New Paintings at the Rule Gallery, Denver abstractionist Dale Chisman has done it again: He's come up with a fresh batch of sophisticated works of art, as he always does. Chisman is, of course, the dean of the city's modernist painters. His artistic career stretches back to the 1960s, when he was in college. It's been two years since he's shown his work in town, but given the strength of this eponymous solo, it was definitely worth the wait. In this group of recent paintings, Chisman has clearly changed his style. But as radical as they appear, they still bear a relationship to his classic work of the '80s and '90s. Like those, these latest paintings feature compositions of shapes that are roughly geometric and have been laid over colored grounds. And though he's long used automatist lines applied instinctually to fill out his pictures, in these current pieces, the lines have become dense webs of paint that all but obscure the arrangement of forms underneath. With these thoroughly original paintings that look completely new, good old Chisman has been rejuvenated. Through June 26 at Rule Gallery, 111 Broadway, 303-777-9473. -- Reviewed June 3
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.
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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.
Repeat Offenders. The summer extravaganza at the Singer Gallery of the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture is Repeat Offenders: Serial Works by Colorado Artists, which opens on Sunday, June 13, with a reception from 3 to 6 p.m. This large, over-the-top exhibit was put together by Simon Zalkind, Singer's highly regarded director and curator. The idea for the show -- work that has repeated or related imagery -- is fairly open-ended, as nearly all artists work in series. That means that nearly anyone could have been eligible, which is probably why Zalkind crammed in pieces by more than two dozen artists.He selected paintings, prints and photographs by some of the best-known talents in the area, including, among a host of others, Stephen Batura, Roland Bernier, Clare Cornell, Sushe Felix, Susan Goldstein, Karen Kitchel, Bethany Kriegsman, Jerry Kunkel, Andrea Modica, Jeff Star and Eric Zimmer. In addition, Zalkind put in work by a smattering of youngsters just out of the gate. The kids hold up surprisingly well in the heady company, especially emerging photographer Jason Patz. Through August 22 at the Singer Gallery, Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-399-2660.
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 included 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.