Anxiety and Desire. Clare Cornell, assistant professor of digital imaging at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, put together Anxiety and Desire, an exhibit of photo-based pieces that address psychological concepts. He included work from an array of artists from around the country, each working in their own ways, though much of it is only vaguely psychological in content. Cinthea Fiss takes photos of bedridden people on television. Donna Tracy uses special effects to create portraits of people and animals. Leta Evaskus does montages of nude women with their X-rays, while Robert Flynt's montages combine historic shots with contemporary ones. Mark Kessell does oddball, intimate portraits. Clarissa Sligh records a woman becoming a man. And finally, Mary Beth Heffernan photographs copies of Christ's loincloth made of chicken skin -- no kidding. Anxiety and desire are strange concepts on which to hang an art show, which is surely why the art in this show is so strange. Through January 15 at the Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207.
Filters of the Twentieth Century. Over the last couple of decades, there's increasingly been a problem with making neat and tidy distinctions between photojournalism and fine-art photography. Art is exactly what's in store for viewers of Filters of the Twentieth Century: Margaret Bourke-White, Carl Mydans on display at Cherry Creek's Gallery M. True, Bourke-White and Mydans were photojournalists, but their works are examples of fine-art photography anyway. Bourke-White did Life magazine's first cover, "Fort Peck Dam," in 1936; an estate print of it is included at Gallery M. The exhibit also has photos Bourke-White took for Erskine Caldwell's 1939 book, You Have Seen Their Faces, which was her personal response to photos of the rural poor taken for the Farm Service Administration. Like Bourke-White, Mydans was one of the first generation of Life photographers, and before that he worked for the FSA. The show could be criticized for being way too crowded, but considering what it's crowded with -- stunning images by Bourke-White and Mydans -- who cares? Through January 31 at Gallery M, 2830 East Third Avenue, 303-331-8400. Reviewed October 14.
herbert bayer. Trained at Germany's famous Bauhaus, multimedia artist Herbert Bayer is one of the most famous creative talents ever to have been associated with Colorado. After fleeing Nazi Germany, Bayer wound up in Aspen in the 1940s, living there until his death in the 1980s. Hugo Anderson, director of Denver's Emil Nelson Gallery, knew the modern master and still has access to his work. As a result, the city's coziest little art space is presenting herbert bayer: maquettes, a museum-quality show that focuses on Bayer's models for sculptures, most of which were never built -- unlike his "Articulated Wall" at the Denver Design Center. Most of the pieces date from the late 1960s into the '70s, and nearly all are composed of identical shapes lined, stacked or piled up into a single form in bright colors. The simplicity -- and the repetition of identical shapes -- reminds us that Bayer's first claim to fame was as a graphic designer. Supplementing these gorgeous sculpture maquettes are drawings, prints and posters. Extended through December 4 at the Emil Nelson Gallery, 1307 Bannock Street, 303-534-0996.
NOT YOUR TYPE. The Singer Gallery at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture is presenting NOT YOUR TYPE: Works in Words by Roland Bernier, Rick Griffith and Martin Mendelsberg, an art show about words. Simon Zalkind, Singer's director, organized the exhibit as the visual-art component of the center's annual Leah Cohen Festival of Books and Authors. Zalkind cleverly put graphics -- a widely seen but rarely exhibited art form -- with that old exhibition workhorse: painting. The lone painter in the show, Roland Bernier, has been using words as an aesthetic device for nearly forty years. Bernier's work looks great next to the graphics of Rick Griffith and Martin Mendelsberg, because they also use words to make their art -- but for different reasons. Bernier is one of the modern masters of the area, and Griffith and Mendelsberg are both extremely well known. It's a diverse group of pieces, but the show is somewhat unified because there are all those words everywhere. Through December 30 at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-399-2660.
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, which is 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 to PILLish (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.
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Quartet. An interesting if uneven exhibit of abstract paintings and sculptures is now at Studio Aiello. The show is called Quartet because it includes the work of four artists: Andrew Speer, Chad Colby, Michael Burnett and Jonathan Hils. Speer is well known because he's taught in the fine-art department of Metropolitan State College for a decade. His dark abstracts are worked to death, resulting in a scuffed-looking and muddy surface. Colby also used to teach at Metro but is now on the faculty of Fort Lewis College in Durango. He integrates photo-based imagery with abstract forms, all of it seeming to come right out of a paint-by-numbers picture. Burnett's neo-abstract-expressionist paintings are the real revelation, because they're so unexpectedly good. He uses a combination of overlapping loops juxtaposed to a serpentine stripe, and it all comes together for him. Hils, whose sculptures are displayed in each of the three painting-filled spaces, is from Oklahoma. Using repeated forms that he welds together, he creates wonderful organic shapes that sit on the floor. Through December 3 at Studio Aiello, 3563 Walnut Street, 303-297-8166. Reviewed November 18.
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.
Random Art Two. It's safe to say that Brandon Borchert's Random Art Two, currently at Capsule @ Pod, is one of the season's hottest prospects. Although Borchert has shown around for the past several years, he was little known until his big breakthrough in this summer's wildly popular Repeat Offenders at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture. That show included pieces by some big names in town, but the real news was the appearance of a trio of upstarts: Borchert, a conceptual painter, and photographers Katie Taft and Jason Patz. Borchert has an intriguing organizational program in which he has developed a set of images that correspond to the Powerball numbers 1 through 53. The images fall into four categories: "sex, death, food and art history." (Hey, isn't that a Swedish movie from the '60s?) Associating the images with the numbers, Borchert comes up with pseudo-narratives. For these Warholian acrylics on paper, he then creates straightforward renditions of the selected images. Through December 4 at Capsule @ Pod, 554 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-3460. Reviewed November 25.
TIWANAKU. In the Helen Bonfils Stanton Galleries on the first floor of the Denver Art Museum is the unusual show TIWANAKU: Ancestors of the Inca. Tiwanaku was a large city on the shores of Lake Titicaca, in the mountains of Bolivia, that existed from 200 to 1100 A.D. The people who lived there, also called Tiwanaku, were not really ethnically related to the Inca, though the Inca adopted them as their cultural forebears and believed they were gods. Margaret Young-Sánchez, the DAM's pre-Columbian curator, put together the show, which is groundbreaking as a scholarly endeavor. There are nearly a hundred objects, including ritual pieces, ceramics, gold jewelry, pottery and a selection of remarkable textiles. Interestingly, much of the material is not from Tiwanaku, coming instead from surrounding towns. After all, the Inca -- and then the Spanish -- had looted the place centuries earlier, so there's little left. Through January 23 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed November 25.