BOCTOK. Steve Antonio is not a former Soviet artist, although his large paintings at Capsule, the gallery part of Pod, might make you think he is one, since these neo-pop compositions depict the first generation of Soviet cosmonauts. The little room at Capsule looks great and is perfectly filled by the monumental Antonio portraits. The six are: Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space and the most famous of the group; Gherman Titov; Andrian Nicolayev; Valeri Bykovsky; and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to leave the atmosphere. Each portrait is paired with a text panel explaining the significance of the individual cosmonaut. Antonio's method looks photo-based, and it is -- but not in the ordinary sense. He projects photos onto the canvases and then hand paints the images. This hybrid process makes the works look like photo silkscreens from a distance; up close, though, they are clearly paintings, with the pigments showily worked in places. The group is unified stylistically, in size and by their shared palettes, and all have a red background emblazoned with a yellow hammer and sickle. Through March 19 at Capsule@Pod, 554 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-3460. Reviewed March 10.
Conversations in Clay. The ceramics exhibit at the Lakewood Cultural Center has been causing a lot of commotion ever since Lakewood City Manager Mike Rock ordered that part of a piece be removed for being "anti-American." The piece that Rock and members of the Lakewood City Council had a problem with is by Gayla Lemke, one of three artists in Conversations in Clay; the others are Caroline Douglas and Marie E.v.B. Gibbons. The objectionable piece was part of Lemke's "Hope Stones," which is made up of ceramic forms in the shape of stones that are impressed with quotations about the futility of war. Among the quotes Air Force veteran Lemke chose was one by political commentator Bill Maher, which some found offensive. In Lakewood, that meant it had to go. The controversy has overshadowed the show, which is pretty nice and includes figures by Douglas and a nature-based installation by Gibbons. Nonetheless, with the removal of the difficult element, the City of Lakewood diminished its center's credibility. Through March 25 at the Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 South Allison Parkway, 303-987-7876. Reviewed March 3.
Cribs. Carley Warren is the subject of a thoughtfully conceived and handsomely presented solo, Cribs, on display in the intimate indoor space at Artyard Sculpture Gallery, an unbelievably small and modestly appointed room that almost always looks good. Warren, a Golden-based artist, established her local reputation in the late '70s with large-scale installations, typically made of wood, but in recent years she's gotten more interested in smaller-scale works, like the pieces in Cribs. The most common understanding of the word "cribs" would be as babies' beds, but the mostly vertically oriented Warren sculptures seem more like stalls in a barn, which could be considered "cribs" as well. (They also have horizontal, rather than vertical, bars, unlike baby cribs.) Though Warren's sculptures are relentlessly non-objective, with no direct references to recognizable imagery (most are triangular towers that refer to architecture and even furniture), they nonetheless have a narrative component suggesting a sense of confinement. Through March 12 at Artyard Sculpture Gallery, 1251 South Pearl Street, 303-777-3219. Reviewed February 24.
IN LIMBO. Internationally known contemporary-art collectors Vicki and Kent Logan maintain a residence in Vail and, lucky for us, have become involved in the cultural life of Colorado. In addition to providing a raft of works partially promised to the Denver Art Museum, the collecting couple has facilitated a relationship between the museum and the University of Denver. IN LIMBO is the second Logan-connected show at DU, but the first in which students -- under the direction of curator and professor Gwen Chanzit -- have been allowed to use the DAM's Logan Collection as well the couple's private stash to come up with it. More often than not, too many cooks spoil the broth, but not in this case. The show is first-rate but surprisingly conservative, considering the tender ages of the organizers. The students chose mostly representational paintings and photographs, and there are only two sculptures. Among the artists included are Bo Bartlett, Jack Pierson, Ron Mueck, Cindy Sherman, Su-En Wong, and almost a dozen others. Through March 11 at the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery, 2121 East Asbury Avenue, 303-871-2846. Reviewed January 20.
Leaving Aztln. The Center for Visual Art in LoDo is presenting a provocative show, Leaving Aztlán: Rethinking Contemporary Latino and Chicano Art. Kaytie Johnson from the Peeler Art Center at DePauw University put it together with input from, among others, CVA director Kathy Andrews. The show examines new trends being embraced by Latino and Chicano artists -- and by Latinas and Chicanas -- and in the process explores the convoluted relationships between art and ethnicity. Ten years ago this would have been an overtly political show, but now, though politics are still in the mix, there are also many pieces that express cutting-edge aesthetic theories. Artists from across the country were selected -- including Jesse Amado, Connie Arismendi, Javier Carmona, Alex Donis, Diana Guerrero-Mácia, John Hernandez, Benito Huerta, Chuck Ramirez, Juan Ramos and Rubén Ortiz Torres -- but Johnson also chose two local talents, Carlos Frésquez and Maria Michelle Gonzalez. Through April 23 at the Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207.
Mel Strawn. Salida-based artist Mel Strawn has a long exhibition track record in Colorado, but in recent years he's kept a low profile. That makes Mel Strawn: Retrospective: 1957-2004 a rare chance to catch up on what he's done over his long career. Strawn was educated in California in the 1950s and taught at a variety of colleges before becoming the director of what was then called the School of Art at the University of Denver in 1969; he remained at DU until 1985. Although the Sandra Phillips Gallery is hardly large enough for a real retrospective -- so it might be a stretch to call this one -- there's room enough to briefly sketch out Strawn's development over nearly a half a century. In a variety of paintings, works on paper and digital images, Strawn reveals his interest in bold compositions with emphatic divisions between the forms and colors. The players in the art world change so often that it's hard to keep up, but someone like Strawn is too interesting to be forgotten, and this show is a good way to remember his contributions to the scene. Through March 30 at the Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-5969.
Three Dimensions and David Mazza. The William Havu Gallery is presenting Three Dimensions, an ambitious group show made up of monumental sculptures by three important artists working in the West: Denver's Lawrence Argent; Austin's Stephen Daly; and Tempe, Arizona's Mary Bates Neubauer. Argent, who is well known in town for his prominent public commissions, is represented by recent sculptures and several of his cerebral photo-enlargements of pacifiers. Daly is showing his large installation "Controller," along with a selection of his signature heads. A few major Neubauer bronzes are on display, as well as a large selection of smaller cast-iron pieces. On the gallery's mezzanine -- humorously dubbed the "Mazza-nine"-- is David Mazza, which is made up of recent sculptures by the local whiz kid. In addition, Mazza has a new piece installed on the sidewalk near the gallery's entrance and works on display in the sculpture garden out back. Also outside is the work of Michael Clapper. Through March 12 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360.
Upstarts and Matriarchs. Feminism transformed American society in the '70s, allowing female artists to turn the art world upside down. Surveying this trend is the topic of Upstarts and Matriarchs: Jewish Women Artists and the Transformation of American Art: 1970-Now. The exhibit was curated by Simon Zalkind, the director of the Singer Gallery of the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, who has presented a formidable roster of first-rate shows over the years. It's hard to say that he's out-done himself this time, but he has. The scholarly show is installed both in the main multi-part space and in the nearby atrium gallery. The extra room was needed because Zalkind has included pieces by more than a dozen artists, among them major historical figures such as Judy Chicago, Audrey Flack, Nancy Grossman, Joyce Kozloff, Martha Rosler, Miriam Shapiro, Joan Semmel, Nancy Spero, Joan Snyder and Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Through March 27 at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia, 303-399-2660. Reviewed February 17.
Will Boys Be Boys? In her recent programming at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art, director Cydney Payton has really tried to push some buttons. Last fall the topic at hand was drug use; now, for the second half of the current season, it's the life of teenage boys, in Will Boys Be Boys? Questioning Adolescent Masculinity in Contemporary Art. Looking at art about teenage boys could make viewers uncomfortable, especially in the case of those pieces in which kids are acting like grownups by drinking, doing drugs and becoming sexual. That last part is particularly edgy, since it brings in the dark specter of the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. The provocative exhibit, which fills both the main floor and the mezzanine at the MCA, is a traveling show put together by Shamim Momin, an associate curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Momin selected pieces in an array of mediums, including painting, sculpture, installation and video, by such artists as Larry Clark, Collier Schorr, Chloe Piene and many others. Through April 17 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554.
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