Dots, Blobs and Angels. Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting an enormous solo that is 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 sculptured 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. Reviewed July 8.
LIFE ON EARTH and children's games. Pirate has been on quite a run lately, and there have been more good shows presented there in just the last few months than were seen during entire years previously. Add LIFE ON EARTH to the list of these top-drawer attractions at Pirate. This impressive solo by co-op member Peter Illig is on display in the main space. The highlight is the unveiling of the artist's monumental "Deep Reality" drawing which, by the way, is 64 feet long! Illig is known for his noir-ish representational imagery, and "Deep Reality" doesn't disappoint in this regard; it features a large complement of enigmatic figures and objects arranged in free association. In the Associates' Space in the back is another great show, children's games, which is made up of Taos-based artist Warren Kelly's latest neo-transcendental abstract paintings. Clearly an outgrowth of his "Loop" series, exhibited last winter at Cordell Taylor, but these new paintings are obviously different, too. They are more baroquely composed and more wildly colored than are the earlier pieces. Both shows open with a reception set for 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, July 16. Through August 1 at Pirate: a contemporary art oasis, 3659 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058.
Ordinary Adornments and Mr. Sparkle. The +Zeile Judish Gallery is highlighting the recent work of a pair of young artists. In the front is Ordinary Adornments, which is made up of New York artist William Crow's wall-mounted constructions that look like surrealist still-life scenes -- among other things. The shapes are organic, but the surfaces are a riot of created and appropriated visual flourishes carried out via various materials, including paint and wallpaper. Crow's compositions have a retro feel, and the forms he uses recall those favored by Jean Arp and Joan Miró. The show in the back, Mr Sparkle, takes its name from a Simpsons cartoon, and also reflects back on earlier modernism -- but in this case it's Andy Warhol and Kenneth Noland. Denver-area painter Colin Livingston creates smart and good-looking paintings that aesthetically are at the intersection of pop and minimalism. Livingston adds text to essentially hard-edged abstractions of the neo-minimalist sort. A pattern painting in green, black and white has the motto "The Original (Party Painting)" filling most of the bottom half. They are clever and conventionally beautiful at the same time. Through August 21 at +Zeile Judish, 2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927.
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. Reviewed June 24.
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. Reviewed June 17.
20th Anniversary Show -- Tony Ortega and Michael Brangoccio. In 1984, William Havu began art-business relationships with two painters, Tony Ortega and Michael Brangoccio, and all these years later, he still handles their work. To celebrate, he's put together the 20th Anniversary Show -- Tony Ortega and Michael Brangoccio at his eponymous gallery. The Ortegas, some of which are monumental, are signature examples of his style, but there are also some new elements. Using figural abstraction, Ortega conjures up the Latino community, both here and throughout the Americas, and in some, he incorporates found imagery. Brangoccio is a surrealist, assembling highly realistic renderings of animals -- especially birds that are caught in unlikely or even impossible situations. In addition to the Ortega/Brangoccio duet on the main floor, there's a solo, Michael Burrows. This artist's specialty is hyperrealism, and he creates photographically accurate landscapes using only graphite and paper. He also does equally detailed paintings in psychedelic colors. Through July 17 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360.
25th Anniversary Show. The Spark Gallery -- named for painter Margaret Neumann's pet dog, Sparky -- is the city's oldest co-op, pre-dating Pirate by a few months in 1979. Over the years, there have been some up times and some down ones, but Spark could always be counted on for experimental art. The 25th Anniversary Show is an all-members cavalcade, and there's plenty of crazy stuff being shown -- in particular, the unveiling of the gallery's new showroom in the old Fresh Art space, which Spark shares with Core, another of the old-time co-ops. Many of Spark's members are established artists, several of whom have built their reputations chiefly through their solos at the gallery. Among those participating in the show are the usual suspects, including Catherine Carilli, Susanna Cavalletti, Madeleine Dodge, Angela Larson, John Matlack, Jennifer Parisi, Jean Schiff, Annalee Schorr, Barbara Shark, Sue Simon, Barbara Carpenter, Elaine Ricklin, Patricia Aaron and Judith Cohn. Last but not least is brand-new celebrity member Roland Bernier. Through July 31 at the Spark Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 303-455-4435.
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.