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.
Impressionist and Modern Masters. This large show has been installed in the second-floor galleries of the new wing at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. A traveling endeavor, the exhibit is meant to bring attention to the beleaguered New Orleans Museum of Art by showcasing its collection and to get a good deal of it out of town while the building undergoes reconstruction necessitated by the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Rather than a look at 19th-century impressionism and 20th-century modernism, as you'd expect, this blockbuster is more broadly based, constituting a greatest-hits survey of the NOMA's collection that also includes pieces from the 17th and 18th centuries. That's why the show represents a solid offering with a lot to teach about the art of Europe and the United States over the last several centuries. And the intelligent installation, which is based on a historic perspective and divides the material into three distinct phases, underscores the sequential nature of the development of art as it inevitably marched toward modernism. Through March 9 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581. Reviewed January 24.
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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