Andy Libertone and Rob Watt. On the west side of Spark, Andy Libertone: Old Walls, New Floors includes the artist's bas-reliefs from the '70s and his recent freestanding sculptures — hence the old walls and new floors of the title. Though Libertone's been around for decades, most of these early pieces are a revelation because they link him to the Criss-Cross group from Boulder. The Criss-Cross artists were interested in geometric abstraction, as was Libertone. The new floor sculptures, which feature bright colors and hard-edged forms, are closely related to the earlier pieces, but they're also different, being asymmetrical. The other solo at Spark, Embroidery by Rob Watt, is installed in the intimate space on the gallery's east side, and it showcases small-scale textiles with representational imagery. Needlework is an unusual medium for a contemporary artist, but Watt has been at it for a long time. His skill at capturing the details of his pictures is remarkable. It's easy to believe that each piece — though small — required forty to fifty hours of work to complete. Through February 27 at Spark Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200, www.sparkgallery.com. Reviewed February 17.
Dale Chisman. The long-awaited posthumous salute to one of the state's great abstractionists, Dale Chisman in Retrospect looks at around forty years' worth of work by this important artist, and for that reason alone, it's an important show. But there's more to it than that: These pieces, when brought together, clearly communicate Chisman's point of view, in which beauty was paramount. The exhibit was organized by Jennifer Doran and Jim Robischon, whose Robischon Gallery represents Chisman's estate. Doran served as curator, and she installed the solo in reverse chronological order, so that viewers begin with the pieces that Chisman completed shortly before his death in 2008 and then go back in stages to his work from the 1970s. The show reveals Chisman's interest in the figure-to-ground relationship, and abstract elements sit on top of color fields in almost everything here. The brushwork is spontaneous, his compositions instinctual. And Chisman's sense of color was courageous: He was never afraid of the primaries of red, yellow and blue — and he also liked black a lot. Don't miss it. Through February 27 at RedLine, 2350 Arapahoe Street, 303-296-4448, www.redlineart.org.
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Triggered Momentum. Ostensibly a group show, Triggered Momentum, Walker Fine Art's entry in the Month of Photography celebration, is actually a pair of solos. Neither of the artists involved — Sabin Aell and Sterling Crispin — is doing photographs, strictly speaking, but each employs photo-related techniques to create their works. For Aell, these pieces began with a little serendipity when she came across a frozen towel outside her studio. She was struck by its beauty, and so began to take towels, wet them, arrange them and then allow them to freeze. She photographed the frozen towels, then digitally printed them on transparent sheets. The sheets were then affixed to paintings covered with simple shapes. Aell painted the walls of the gallery with blown-up versions of the shapes, hanging the hybrid photo-paintings over them. The Aell pieces surround the one work by Crispin. Opposite the front door, and facing it, Crispin has created a screen with an interactive video component. As viewers approach the screen, a faint outline of their form is translated onto its surface. Through March 19 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955, www.walkerfineart.com.
What Is Modern? Denver Art Museum 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.