About Us... et al. In the West Gallery at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art is About Us..., put together by freelance curator Mark Addison, who brought in two dozen works of conceptual realism by a raft of internationally known artists in addition to pieces from his own collection. Addison is a major collector, arts advocate and donor who has had a long love affair with conceptual realism. This show takes up the topic of "art about who we are and how we live" and "the big questions of life," according to Addison's statement. In the East Gallery is The Look of Nowhere, an installation by Colorado's own Scott Johnson. It's absolutely great. Walking through the installation feels like a trip to a haunted house, an effect heightened by the spare and dramatic lighting. The last of the three exhibits at BMoCA is Jezebel, a Carla Gannis solo displayed upstairs in the funky and tiny Union Works Gallery. The New York artist does digital prints of staged situations starring steamy women. Through September 6 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 303-443-2122, www.bmoca.org. Reviewed July 10.
Bedroom Paintings. Painting is making its umpteenth comeback right now, having been declared "dead" over and over. Of course, the truth is that painting never died since artists refuse to cooperate and won't let go of the form; neither will collectors and curators. In a way, this is the setup for Bedroom Paintings, one of the exhibits on view at Lakewood's Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar. Lab director Adam Lerner, who organized the show, wanted "to explore the potential for painting to provide immediate pleasure." It goes without saying that this is an open-ended theme on which to build an exhibit. Lerner chose pieces by seven contemporary painters, four of whom are from the area: Stephen Batura, Jeffrey Keith, Frank Martinez and Amy Metier. David Reed and Maggie Michael represent the East Coast, and Feris McReynolds the West. Nearly everything is abstract, though Lerner doesn't believe in abstraction except as a historical category. Through August 31 at the Lab at Belmar, 404 South Upham Street, 303-934-1777, www.belmarlab.org. Reviewed July 3.
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 November 16 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, www.mcadenver.org. Reviewed June 19.
Landscapes From the Age of Impressionism. Bringing the easel into the sunshine is rather pretentiously called plein-air painting, which simply means painting outdoors. But the fact that the word "air" is used — even if it is in French — is telling, because many of these artists went on to try and depict the air itself as it enveloped the landscape. This approach, which was new and different in the nineteenth century, is the underlying organizing theme of this traveling show in the Gallagher Family Gallery at the Denver Art Museum. It features more than three dozen landscape paintings from the collection of New York's Brooklyn Museum, all of which were painted — or at least sketched out — right on site. The Denver stop has been arranged by assistant curator Angelica Daneo so that viewers can take a straightforward trajectory through the material, beginning with the painters of the French Academic tradition, continuing with the French impressionists, and winding up with the critiques of impressionism done by American artists. Through September 7 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed June 19.
Tattoo Detour. This Jack Balas solo is dominated by watercolors and drawings, though there are also some oil and mixed-media paintings included. Most of the pieces were done during a working vacation Balas took to Hawaii. It was the first time the artist ever created "out of a suitcase," he said, and he loved it. The drawings, which are freely done in ink, like doodles or scribbles, were created at coffee shops and restaurants. They depict surfers in unlikely settings, like a guy riding his board on a table, or another with trees coming out of the board. For the more finished pieces, Balas began by sketching the Hawaiian scenery, especially the beach, and photographing the people there, both candidly and in poses. It is no surprise, considering his oeuvre, that most of the models were extremely fit young men. Back in the hotel room, Balas merged the imagery in his studies -- landscapes and people -- to come up with his watercolors and paintings, a number of which really hit the mark. Through August 2 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, www.robischongallery.com. Reviewed July 17.
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