Every Good Cowboy and Nate Baldwin. In the front space at Pirate, there's an interesting collaborative show made up of neo-pop mixed-media pieces, most with a vaguely Western theme. The works on view include those done either by Matthew Doubek or by Samuel Mobley, as well as many others that were created by the two working together. The pieces are definitely all in fun, and many have a retro feel from the '40s and '50s to them. In the Associates Space in the back, there's an impressive collection of representational paintings in Nate Baldwin: Hyperrealism. The subjects Baldwin captures are sometimes disturbing, as in "Curing the Disease," which depicts a mugging, or in "Standard Procedure," showing a bound person being injected with a hypodermic needle. Though his narratives are hard to deal with, it's easy to see that Baldwin is as good as it gets when it comes to applying paint, and it would be no exaggeration to call his work breathtaking. This is a must-see show for anyone who admires talent and accomplished technique. Through February 20 at Pirate: Contemporary Art, 3655 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058, www.pirateartonline.com.
Joan Moment and Monroe Hodder. Though Joan Moment has spent the past four decades in California, she began her art career right here in Colorado in the late '60s when she was a graduate student at the University of Colorado in Boulder. That makes it easy to associate her work with that of George Woodman, a highly influential teacher at the time, and with Clark Richert, a fellow student then. Like them, Moment is interested in doing programmatic work that relates to patterning, meaning her work is abstract but also has conceptual content. Moment's solo has been paired with Monroe Hodder's, another neo-modernist, but where the former uses circles as her principal aesthetic device, the latter uses stripes. The two different bodies of work come together brilliantly. Hodder lives in Colorado, but she also has a studio in London. In addition to the Moment and Hodder shows, the gallery is presenting offerings by Carrie Lederer, a postmodern painter, and Jeff Aeling, a neo-traditionalist who lives in Missouri but paints Colorado's celebrity landscape. Through February 19 at William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, www.williamhavugallery.com. Reviewed January 13.
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Marc Brandenburg. The latest German artist to be introduced to local audiences by Denver Art Museum director Christoph Heinrich is Marc Brandenburg, a Berlin native. The artist is the subject of a handsome solo, Marc Brandenburg: Deutch-Amerikanishe Freundschaft,
installed on level three of the Hamilton Building. Brandenburg came up with the German punk scene of the '80s, and the show's title, which means "German-American Friendship," is also the name of a rock band. His style is hyper-realist with a twist: Working in graphite on paper and using photos as studies, Brandenburg reverses the blacks and whites. Among the range of subjects are people out and about, on the streets or in parks. Technically, Brandenburg is as good as it gets; his drawings are breathtakingly precise. His punk heritage is hardly on view, but his continuing interest in being outrageous is well demonstrated by the floor drawing "Vomit," in which the artist has photographed vomit on the sidewalk and then done copies in graphite. Through February 20 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed December 16.
Marc Willhite. Marc Willhite: Soft Descriptions is filled with installations, most of them text-based and including words. An emerging Denver artist, Willhite doesn't explicitly explain what he means when he uses specific words in specific pieces, but he does want the viewer to examine them and to visualize them. The exhibit's title thus becomes an explanation of sorts, with Willhite employing words with ambiguous or multiple meanings, or at least having enigmatic content. The image on the invitation is a photo of a rabbit with the sun shinning through its ears. This photo is not included in the exhibit, but an installation with thousands of clear plastic push pins spelling out the phrase "Sunlight Passing Through a Rabbit's Ear" is. Interestingly, the push pins catch the light in the same way the rabbit's ear does. The most unusual piece here is a portrait of Susan Sontag that was not made by Willhite but rather was commissioned by him. It was painted by Monique Crine and is based on a photo on the back cover of Sontag's Against Interpretation, the title of which resonates with the show. Through February 19 at Ironton Studios and Gallery, 3636 Chestnut Place, www.irontonstudios.com. Reviewed February 3.
What Is Modern? Department of Architecture, Design and Graphics curator Darrin Alfred has put together this large show dedicated to furniture and décor from the early nineteenth to the early 21st century. Alfred has included groundbreaking tables, storage units, lighting and — no surprise here, considering Alfred's specialty — graphics. Laudably, Alfred takes a chronological look at how technological advancements informed the development of modernism, starting with a bentwood chair from 1808 by Samuel Gragg. Its overall form is very sleek, with a gracefully curving back, but the details are very different, being almost precious, like the little hooves that mark the termination of the legs. One of the newest pieces in the show is "Roadrunner," a chair from 2006 by Colorado's own David Larabee and Dexter Thornton working together as DoubleButter. Made of a cheap synthetic, the chair is nonetheless elegant. In between the two chairs, Alfred has installed a wide assortment of classics from the annals of modernism. Through November 30, 2011, at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed December 23.