Mes Petits Amis. As part of Denver's "Month of Photography," Capsule at Pod is presenting Mes Petits Amis (My Little Friends), a solo featuring experimental images by emerging artist Katie Taft. Though she's only been exhibiting in the area for the last year or so, she's really gotten around. Her work first gained a wide local audience when it was included in Repeat Offenders at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture. Taft was one of three youngsters -- the other two being painter Brandon Borchert and photographer Jason Patz -- who absolutely stole that show. The Taft photos at Capsule are closely related to those she showed at Mizel in that they depict imaginary animals, the sculptures of which Taft made herself. Despite the cartoon-ish character of the figures, the photos have a minimalist quality, with Taft creating graduated color fields as backgrounds. Taft's use of light and shadow and her unerring sense for composition are her greatest strengths. In addition to the photos, Taft has done T-shirts with the image of a double-headed bird on the front. Through November 6 at Capsule, 554 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-3460. Reviewed October 14.
MUSCOVITES. Simon Zalkind, director of the Singer Gallery of the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, has a longstanding interest in photography and in Russia, which makes the fall opener,MUSCOVITES: Ilya Ilf and Mark Markov-Grinberg: Photographs 1930-1940, a natural for him. The exhibit pairs photos by Ilya Ilf, a Soviet journalist, with those by Mark Markov-Grinberg, a Soviet photojournalist. The notable artists worked during the Stalin era, when many Jews embraced communism. It was prescient, considering what was to happen. Both men, though part of the official press, felt the need to change their names so they would sound less Jewish. The exhibit juxtaposes everyday views of life by Ilf with Markov-Grinberg's shots, which record historic events of the time. The exhibit is a collaborative effort of the Mizel and the University of Denver's Center for Judaic Studies, with center director David Shneer having played a major role in facilitating the show. Noted collectors Paul and Teresa Harbaugh were also involved. Through November 4 at the Singer Gallery of the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360. Reviewed October 14.
PILLish, et al. Cydney Payton, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, has been busy lately. She oversaw the architectural competition to select a designer for the museum's soon-to-be-constructed new building (the winner: David Adjaye), and she's been lining up money to pay for it, a full-time job in itself. But somehow she was also able to put together the three shows currently at the MCA. On the main floor is PILLish: Harsh Realities and Gorgeous Destinations, which takes aim at the drug culture, both of the illicit and prescription kind. The exhibit includes a roster of international artists -- among them, Larry Clark, Damien Hirst, Nan Goldin, Takashi Murakami and Fred Tomaselli -- as well as Colorado's own Albert Chong. Closely related in content (because it has a medicine chest in it) is Paola Ochoa's True Love, a video installation nestled in a space under the mezzanine. Ochoa was the first artist selected for the MCA's NEW PIC program, which highlights emerging talent. On the mezzanine is Shadows and Fog, a solo by Margaret Neumann, an early exponent of neo-expressionism. All through January 2 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554.
The Quest for Immortality. With the rise of archaeology in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, scientists began excavating Egyptian tombs and discovering a wide array of gorgeous artifacts. This tomb art is what makes the blockbuster currently on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science absolutely fabulous. A traveling exhibit about midway through its coast-to-coast tour, The Quest for Immortality was organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in collaboration with Copenhagen's United Exhibits Group and Cairo's Supreme Council of Antiquities. An army of scientists, curators and scholars worked on it, headed up by Betsy M. Bryan, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The heart of the exhibit includes objects found in the tomb of Thutmose III, as well as an astounding digital re-creation of the tomb itself. The show is jammed with visitors, but don't let all the people -- or the steep ticket prices -- dissuade you: This is one show that you've really got to see to believe. Through January 23 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, 303-322-7009. Reviewed October 7.
Rex Ray: Recent Work. The gorgeous Rex Ray: Recent Work, currently at Rule Gallery, is clearly one of the best shows in memory. On the south wall of the space is an installation called "Wall of Sound," which is made up of nearly 500 different collages on small sheets of paper hung end to end. These paper collages are essentially sketches for the ones on board and canvas. Across from the installation are scores of collages on board that are displayed salon style on the north wall and on the short walls; Ray calls these large pieces on canvas "landscapes." In both types, Ray uses papers he decorated with paint and transfer printing. Most of these works have a mid-century-modernist feel, but rather than looking retro, they have a neo-modern character. Ray has an instinctual sense for composition, and his skill as a colorist is remarkable. Through November 20 at Rule Gallery, 111 Broadway, 303-777-9473. Reviewed October 21.
Silence Nothingness. There's an elegant little show with the possibly insulting title of Silence Nothingness at the Sandra Phillips Gallery. The exhibit pairs Amy Lee Solomon's abstracted Western landscapes with emerging artist Susan Jean Hart's rough-hewn sculptures, which also pick up the landscape theme. In the '80s and early '90s, Solomon, then a neo-expressionist painter, was well known in town, having exhibited her work in several fondly remembered art hot spots. Though she's shown her paintings continuously since then, she's kept a much lower profile. The new Solomons are covered with scribbles of graphite and smears of paint in a fairly limited palette: cream, blue, black and gray, with little touches of green and orange. Hart's sculptures are very cool and are part of a tradition of wooden sculptures that have been done around here for decades. I especially like "Tree House," a totem made of steel and tree branches, but the others are good, too. The show has been extended to November 7 at the Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-5969. Reviewed October 21.
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