Clyfford Still Unveiled. A master and pioneer of mid-twentieth-century abstract expressionism, painter Clyfford Still was something of an eccentric in the artist-as-egomaniac stripe. His antisocial behavior led to a situation where 94 percent of his artworks remained together after he died — a staggeringly complete chronicle of his oeuvre that is now owned by the City of Denver. As a planned Clyfford Still Museum won't be completed until 2010, the institution's founding director, Dean Sobel, decided to preview a baker's dozen of Still's creations at the Denver Art Museum. Sobel uses the very small show to lay out most of the artist's career and stylistic development. Still worked his way from regionalism to surrealism, then wound up developing abstract expressionism with one of the greatest abstract paintings imaginable, "1944 N No. 1" — and the rest is art history. Though too small to be considered a blockbuster, this exhibit is nonetheless an extremely important one that shouldn't be missed unless you aren't interested in art at all. Through June 30 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed July 26.
Color as Field. It's no exaggeration to say that Color as Field: American Painting 1950-1975 is one of the best shows presented in Denver in a generation. Filled with a who's who of American art — Still, Rothko, Frankenthaler, Stella — it's like a brief vacation into a world where nothing matters except for achieving a purely visual experience. This is that legendary art-about-art that conservative cultural commentators love to exhort for its meaninglessness while those in the art world praise it just as stridently for its intoxicating beauty. The title of the show is misleading because guest curator, Karen Wilkin, working for the American Federation of the Arts, which organized this traveling exhibit, has taken an inclusive and thereby unorthodox view of the concept of the color-field movement of the '50s through the '70s. Though Wilkin includes the doctrinaire examples of color field, she also reaches back to abstract expressionism and forward to geometric abstraction, arguing that all of it is part of the color-field ethos. Through February 3 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed November 8.
Grounded. This good-looking exhibit pairs recent landscape-based abstract paintings by Lui Ferreyra with photos recording roadside landmarks by Peter Brown. Ferreyra fractures the imagery in his distinctive work by reducing it to non-repeating patterns of geometric shapes. There are reverberations of cubism in this, as well as references to digitization and, believe it or not, paint-by-numbers. The forms, in this case mountains, are merely suggested as opposed to being literally defined. Different shapes are carried out in different colors, with the artist turning to these colors (more than to their shapes) to distinguish features of the landscape. Brown, whose large-format Cibachrome prints capture the vanishing rural life of the West, uses a deep focus, which brings viewers into the pictures. He often looks for minimalist scenes like a tabletop-flat field plowed into straight furrows, unfolding beneath a crystal-clear sky. In others, he appropriates the informal monumentality of boarded-up stores or rusting farm buildings. Through February 23 at Sandy Carson Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585. Reviewed January 17.
The Nature of Things. For its first show of the new year, Havu Gallery is presenting a duet dedicated to recent creations by painting pair Sushe and Tracy Felix. The couple's works have almost always been presented together during their twenty-year-plus careers. Both artists look to the art history of the region — in particular, the transcendentalists working in New Mexico and the early modernists in Colorado. Both do landscape-based abstractions, but their styles are distinctive and individualistic. Sushe's abstracts are non-repetitive patterns that evoke the land via simple shapes and elements suggesting the trees, the sky and even birds. Tracy, on the other hand, directly references specific mountain views but conventionalizes the elements of the landscape so that they look like vintage cartoon images, à la Jellystone Park. As a bonus, Havu is featuring Erick Johnson, a display of abstract sculptures by this well-known Colorado artist. Through February 23 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360. Reviewed January 17.
Star Power. To celebrate the new Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver by architect David Adjaye, director Cydney Payton has organized seven solos collectively titled Star Power: Museum as Body Electric. The festivities begin on the lower level, where Candice Breitz's "Legend," a grid of video screens on which Jamaicans are singing Bob Marley songs, is installed. On the first floor in the New Media Gallery is "Faces," a mixed-media installation in which a spider form and a skull shape move to music by Carlos Amorales, and in the Photography Gallery are collages by Collier Schorr that explore a really cute teenage boy. On the second floor, in the Paper Works Gallery, there's an exhibition of watercolors of female nudes by Chris Ofili, who, like Adjaye, is an African-born artist who lives in the United Kingdom. In the Project Gallery is an installation called "Whare Shakairo," by Maori-artist Rangi Kipa, meant to rehabilitate Tiki culture. In the Promenade is an installation by Wangechi Mutu. Finally, in the Large Works Gallery is an untitled installation of mirrors by David Altmejd that's really an eye-dazzler. Through February 9 at the MCA/D, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554.
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