15 Colorado Artists. The Kirkland Museum is presenting a historical show that tracks the beginnings of post-war modernism in Denver using the artist group 15 Colorado Artists as an index. The story goes that the Denver Artists Guild was hostile to modernism at the time. This led to a split, with the modernists breaking off to form their own organization, the 15, which included Jean Charlot, Mina Conant, Angelo Di Benedetto, Vance Kirkland, William Sanderson and Frank Vavra. Eventually, many more joined. The exhibit was put together by collector and art history sleuth Deborah Wadsworth and museum director Hugh Grant. One interesting revelation is how tepid these early modern works were and that, despite the fact that the traditional artists (and the Denver Post) thought of them as "radicals," the members of the 15 were pretty conservative. As a result, the exhibit proves beyond any doubt that Colorado Springs — and not Denver — was where modernism was happening in the state in the '40s. Through July 31 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576, www.kirklandmuseum.org.
Boardman Robinson. The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the construction of its building, a modernist masterpiece. Among the various exhibits and events associated with the festivities is Boardman Robinson: History of Commerce, an exhibition of a set of ten murals installed in the large gallery on the second floor. Each of these murals measures 8' x 15' and depicts trade through the ages with vignettes that act as parables. Robinson, who was an important regionalist painter, had a distinctive style in which the volumetric character of figures is exaggerated, and in which the different elements of the pictures are clearly defined and separated. These incredible murals, which haven't been shown together in decades, were created for Kaufmann's department store in Pittsburgh in 1929. The next year, Robinson came to Colorado to take the art director's job at the Broadmoor Academy, the predecessor of the CSFAC. Robinson also led the CSFAC's art school and spent 1930 to 1947 in the Springs. Through June 12 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5583, www.csfineartscenter.org.
Galileo's Garden. Husband-and-wife artists Tyler and Monica Aiello are the subjects of conjoined solos at Space Gallery. The exhibit, Galileo's Garden, includes over three dozen pieces. Though working in entirely different mediums — Tyler in metal sculpture, Monica in mixed-media painting — they long ago forged a formal relationship by using similar shapes and thus making their separate works compatible. In their most recent pieces, however, the interconnections have intensified to the extent that it's easy to imagine collaborative projects as the logical next step. Monica refers to outer space in her resin-coated panels (she has even had associations with NASA), and her pictures are meant to suggest the universe. But by referring to a garden in the show's title, she's also allowed to bring in floral references. Tyler has done the same thing, with some works evoking planets and others suggesting flowers. Through June 11 at Space Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, www.spacegallery.org.
Homare Ikeda, Michael Clapper, Amy Metier. A key figure in the contemporary scene in Denver for the past several decades is the subject of a large and impressive solo, Homare Ikeda: Time Is Floating, which covers the walls of the main floor at William Havu Gallery. Ikeda, who was born in Japan, is known for his distinctive abstract paintings and works on paper, which have an awkwardly balanced and idiosyncratic approach to forms and compositions. The Ikedas are supplemented here by a handful of sculptures from noted Colorado sculptor Michael Clapper. Upstairs is a group of recent abstract paintings by another important local artist, Amy Metier, who lives in Boulder. At first glance, Metier's lyrical paintings apparently refer to abstract expressionism, but there are other stylistic references, too. Since the beginning of this year, Havu has been mining the state's abstract scene to great effect. Through June 4 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, www.williamhavugallery.com.
I've Gotcha Covered. In the expansive front room at Walker Fine Art, two of Colorado's most established contemporary artists, Roland Bernier and Bill Vielehr, have been brought together for an unlikely pairing. Both have enjoyed long careers with lots of successes under their individual belts. Bernier, who lives in Denver, is best known for his conceptual work in which the letters of the alphabet are exploited for their formal characteristics more often than for their meanings as parts of words. For this recent batch of pieces, Bernier has blown the letters up, carrying them out as shallow bas-reliefs made of various materials. In what seems like a new take, each letter functions separately, though they also make up a group that goes from A to Z. Boulder-based Vielehr is represented by his signature sculptures, which are left in the natural shade of the aluminum, some with areas of golden yellow. They take the shape of abstracted columns, with both simple, straightforward poles and more complex shapes derived from stacks of separate cylinders. Through June 18 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955, www.walkerfineart.com.
Margaret Neumann. Earlier this year, Robin Rule made the surprise announcement that she was relocating her swank-looking Broadway gallery to a much smaller space, next to Ice Cube in the RiNo neighborhood. A couple of weeks ago, she opened the doors on this latest iteration of Rule Gallery with Margaret Neumann: As I Once Knew It..., made up of paintings and drawings by the ultra-idiosyncratic artist. Neumann's signature style can be characterized by the sense of discomfort her works convey. Her figures are awkwardly posed and clearly out of balance from a compositional standpoint. And the paint has been both methodically and clumsily applied. Her palette of blacks and reds also contributes to the uneasiness and edginess of the pictures. To complete this anti-aesthetic program, the subjects Neumann depicts are disturbing in themselves, like the man with the bleeding head wound. Through June 24 at Rule Gallery, 3340 Walnut Street, 303-777-9473, www.rulegallery.com. Reviewed May 19.
What Is Modern? Department of Architecture, Design and Graphics curator Darrin Alfred has put together this large show dedicated to furniture and decor 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 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed December 23.
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