Abstraction. A group of untitled abstracts by Ania Gola-Kumor launches this exhibit, which was organized by Sally Perisho. Gola-Kumor is little known around here; in fact, she could be called the best unknown artist in Denver, though she had her first show in town back in 1982. She's represented here by three monumental paintings and two small collages, all of which are spectacular. The paintings, more than the collages, seem to be based on something seen in reality, but Gola-Kumor has altered it to such an extent that it's unrecognizable. The show also includes paintings by Virginia Maitland, such as a classic color-field painting. Beyond are some automatist compositions by Jane Troyer from Dallas, the only artist in the show not from Colorado. Crammed in the corner — which is too bad — are some marvelous vintage drawings by Mel Strawn, a fixture of Colorado art since the 1970s. Finishing things off are Bebe Alexander's marvelous lidded vessels in glazed ceramic. Since they're not abstract, however, they clash with everything else. Through July 5 at Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-5969, www.thesandraphillipsgallery.com.
Black & White. The most important of the current crop of sculpture exhibits around town, this handsome show features the work of Jerry Wingren and Brenda Stumpf. Wingren is the bigger draw because he is so well-known hereabouts, having built an impressive career from his base in the foothills west of Boulder. A conceptual artist who aims to convey spiritual content, he has a signature style that combines Scandinavian austerity with Japanese simplicity and a dash of Northwest Coast Native arts. In a sense, all of these aesthetic currents come as much from his life experiences as from his art training. Born in Alaska, Wingren grew up in a town where the population was neatly divided between Scandinavian immigrants and Tlingit people; as an adult, he studied in Japan. The Zen character of Wingren's utter minimalism contrasts considerably with that of Brenda Stumpf, whose work, featuring densely composed wall relief sculptures, is downright baroque. An artist from New York, Stumpf is new to Walker. Through July 19 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #4, 303-355-8955, www.walkerfineart. Reviewed June 12.
Dale Chisman. Since Dale Chisman is among the greatest abstract painters who ever plied their trade in Colorado, this show is unquestionably one of the most significant of the year. Recent Paintings by Dale Chisman is also a rare chance to see his work in depth, as it has been three long years since his last in-town solo, which was also at Rule. Chisman was born and raised in Denver and earned his BFA and MFA at CU in Boulder, but he also studied in London and elsewhere. For fifteen years, he lived in New York, where he became involved with that city's cutting-edge art scene. A little over twenty years ago, he returned to Denver. The paintings at Rule, all of them done in 2007 and 2008, are stylistically a continuation of his previous painterly interests while simultaneously covering new ground. They are notably airier and more atmospheric than his earlier efforts, and many incorporate linear elements, often a horizontal line that's meant to be a metaphor for the landscape — but we'll have to take Chisman's word for that. Through June 28 at Rule Gallery, 227 Broadway, 303-777-9473, www.rulegallery.com.
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. Through June 30 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed July 26, 2007.
Galo Galecio. When the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's permanent collection was being moved back from storage after renovations and additions to the building last year, curator Tariana Navas-Nieves came across a portfolio of prints by Ecuadorian artist Galo Galecio still in its original case. One on Ecuador's most important modernists, Galecio did these wood engravings in the 1940s, and they were acquired by the CSFAC soon after. As so often happens, the prints were immediately stored and never displayed at the CSFAC — until now. Galecio, who studied in Mexico with Diego Rivera, was a Latin-American proponent of surrealism; much of the imagery he employs is disquieting or disturbing, like a big eyeball anchoring one composition, or the figure that seems to be built from severed limbs in another — the only unifying element being the suggestion of a lush jungle in the background. The show is in the Manley Gallery on the ground floor of the new wing. Through August 31 at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581, www.csfineartscenter.org.
Susanne Kühn. Using pictures to tell stories was definitely a no-no in classic modern art and for the first three quarters of the twentieth century. That changed in the 1980s and '90s, when narrative painting made a huge comeback in contemporary art circles. One of the vanguards of this movement was the New Leipzig School from Germany. The artist featured in the eponymous solo Susanne Kühn, at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, is too young to be part of that movement, but her work is definitely the heir to it. Cydney Payton, director and chief curator of the MCA, put the exhibit together and has written an essay for the catalogue. Kühn's approach to picture-making is complex, with a decidedly photographic quality to her renderings. But the colors are strangely toned-up, which denies any sense of photographic realism. Kuhn also uses subtly different points of view and therefore employs differing perspectives, which also works against the idea of strictly representing external reality. But these disconnections meld as much as they collide with one another. Through September 21 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, ww.mcadenver.org. Reviewed June 19.
Patrick Porter. East Colfax Avenue is definitely on the way up. From downtown to Monaco Parkway, storefronts are being spiffed up, shops and restaurants are opening, and people are starting to fill the formerly seedy sidewalks. Several hipster businesses are now mixed in with the dry cleaning plant and the pet groomer, including Ism Gallery. The place is a cross between a commercial operation and an alternative space. It was opened four years ago by budding artist Craig Thomas, who also uses it as his studio. The current show, Patrick Porter: Soopermart Grand Opening, is very uneven, but there are some pieces that really hit their marks. Porter, who grew up in Bailey, is a recognized musician with a number of CDs to his credit, and a published poet with several volumes to his name. And although he's long been interested in painting, this is only his second solo. Porter's paintings have a manic, expressionist character, as though a child had done them in the midst of a headbanging tantrum. Through July 5 at Ism, 3229 East Colfax Avenue, 303-322-6460, www.ismgalleryart.com. Reviewed May 29.
Yu-Cheng Chou. On view in the Lu and Chris Law New Media Gallery on the first floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art is a video installation that represents this Chinese-born, Paris-based artist's first-ever museum show in America. Director Cydney Payton was an early proponent of the new Chinese art, and it was the MCA that hosted the area's first major show on the topic several years ago. Yu-Cheng's conceptual work in video and digital printing conveys the appeal of Chinese art because it's based on a hybrid of Eastern and Western sensibilities. In assembling and organizing Yu-Cheng Chou, Payton combated video's greatest shortcoming — that it is often boring — by taking a more-is-more approach to the installation, in which a lot is going on at the same time. The artist embraces a wide range of approaches, with some pieces referencing classic Chinese art and others coming out of Japanese-derived animation. But regardless of his sources, all have been created in an international context. Yu-Cheng Chou is a nice little show, and even if you're indifferent to video, it's still worth seeing. Through July 6 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554. Reviewed March 6.
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