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.
Bob Koons and Quintin Gonzalez. The Sandy Carson Gallery has two great single-artist shows installed back to back. In the front space is Bob Koons: paintings; in the two spaces beyond is Quintin Gonzales: digital images. Both artists use computers in their creative processes, but in very different ways. Doing what he's dubbed "Fakescapes," Koons digitizes seventeenth- to nineteenth-century landscape paintings. The original landscapes are done in the Romantic style and are thus, according to Koons's ideology, "fake," which is what obviously inspired the series title. But Koons does not present the resulting high-tech landscapes as his finished pieces; instead, he uses them as preparatory studies for traditional oil paintings. Gonzalez is primarily interested in portraits, and most of his pieces in this show were done with a LightJet printer on Fujicolor Crystal Archive Professional Paper, but there are also a handful of mixed-media paintings. The most memorable feature of these portraits is the use of toned-up colors. Through June 18 at the Sandy Carson Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585. Reviewed 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
Dots, Blobs and Angels. Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting an enormous solo dedicated to the late David Rigsby, an artist who played a big part in the local art scene in the '70s and '80s. The exhibit was organized by director Cydney Payton, who installed it more or less chronologically, allowing Rigsby's stylistic development to shine throughout. The oldest works in the show are two oils on book covers done when Rigsby was a little boy; the newest were done right before he died in a car accident in 1993 -- some of these were done on book covers, too. In between, Rigsby created scores of abstract and figural paintings, as well as a body of remarkable sculptures made of wood and recycled rubber. The outlandish title, Dots, Blobs and Angels, refers to some of the things Rigsby depicted -- though much of what he sculpted during his forty-year-plus career defies description. Clearly, it's one of the hottest shows of the summer. Through September 19 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554.
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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 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. 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 tradition 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.
Painting a New World. There are no famous artists in the Denver Art Museum's current blockbuster, but even without that kind of draw, it really shouldn't be missed. Donna Pierce, the museum's curator of Spanish Colonial art, organized it in-house, which means that it's a rare bird -- a traveling show that's actually departing from Denver instead of arriving here. The local origin is reason enough to check it out, but there are fifty other reasons, too: the magnificent paintings. Pierce started working on the project in 1999, when she was hired. Many of the pieces are from the collection of Jan and Fred Mayer, longtime museum donors, but Pierce not only hunted for things here in town, she also searched for them in the museums and private collections of Mexico and Europe. Many of the works on display are the kind we'd expect -- Spanish baroque religious paintings -- but others are completely unexpected, such as two unforgettable paintings carried out in feathers, an art form associated with the Aztecs. Through July 25 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. 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. 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 since nearly all artists work in series. That means that nearly anyone could have been eligible -- which is probably why he crammed in pieces by more than two dozen artists. For the show, Zalkind 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.