Birger Sandzén. Though Birger Sandzén was born in Sweden, studied painting there and in Paris and later made his permanent home in Kansas, we in Colorado can claim him as one of our own. Sandzén found his muse here — in our stunning scenery — and after his first extended stay in 1908, returned and subsequently spent nearly every summer in Colorado between 1913 and 1952. He died in 1954. The exhibit, which may be the largest ever devoted to the artist, was organized by Blake Milteer, the director of the museum at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Milteer decided not to arrange the show in chronological order, but to his credit, he has gone to great pains to demonstrate not only how the artist's work changed over the decades, but also the elaborate process Sandzén undertook in his artistic practice. The oldest piece in the exhibit is from 1910, but based on the works included, the artist apparently came upon his signature aesthetic in 1917 and continued to produce in a similar vein into the 1930s. These mature paintings are absolutely out of this world. Through January 8 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 719-634-5583, www.csfineartscenter.org. Reviewed November 17.
Chris Antemann & Kendrick Moholt et al. The Robischon Gallery is a lot like a tidy downtown museum with strong exhibits running simultaneously. Two of the current offerings resonate with one another since both are about the relationship of contemporary art to Europe's old-master tradition. Plus, both are concerned with the subject of sex. First is Chris Antemann & Kendrick Moholt: Let Them Eat Cake, which comprises large-format digital prints taken by Moholt that depict porcelain scenes of revelry set in the 1700s done by ceramics sculptor Antemann. These scenes made up of men and woman at parties are done in a style that recalls classic European porcelain work. One subtle if shocking element of these tableaux are the tiny gilt-edged erections some of the male figures sport. Second is Wes Hempel: Tacit Turns which is also about imposing a contemporary sensibility onto traditional styles. The artist carries out replicas of historic portraits and then adds a text block – also in a faux-antique style – making the pieces read like old-world ads for hookups. Through December 31 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, www.robischongallery.com. Reviewed December 15.
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Chuck Close. In the last few years, the Loveland Museum and Gallery has stepped up its game by presenting the work of famous artists. And the beat goes on with Chuck Close: A Couple of Ways of Doing Something. Close first came to the fore in the 1970s with hyper-realist portraits based on photos. As his work matured in the 1980s, he developed his own brand of pointillism to carry out his imagery (which still made obvious references to photography). In 1988, though, Close suffered a spinal artery collapse that left him mostly paralyzed from the neck down. But after only six months of physical therapy, he was painting again — first with a brush in his teeth and then with one strapped to his wrist! The Loveland show features his photos, including a set of works based on a series of 2004 daguerreotypes depicting his friends. There are also digital prints and amazing jacquard tapestries on view here. Through December 31 at the Loveland Museum and Gallery, 503 Lincoln Avenue, Loveland, 1-970-962-2410, www.ci.loveland.co.us. Reviewed October 20.
Clyfford Still. For the opening of the Clyfford Still Museum, founding director Dean Sobel has installed a career survey of the great artist. Clyfford Still: Inaugural Exhibition starts with the artist's realist self-portrait and features his remarkable post-impressionist works from the 1920s. Next are Still's works from the '30s, with some odd takes on regionalism and some figurative surrealist paintings. Sobel saw a seed for Still's abstract expressionism in the line following the shoulders of the figures in these works that appears throughout the artist's career. Then there's his first great leap forward as the representational surrealist works give way to abstract ones. Still makes his big break in the early 1940s, becoming the first artist to arrive at abstract expressionism. Seeing so many classic Stills at once is an indescribable experience. Looking at the work dating from the '40s and '50s, it's easy to see why Still is regarded as one of the great masters of American art. Sobel has also done a survey of Still's career in miniature using the artist's works on paper. Through March 31 at the Clyfford Still Museum, 1250 Bannock Street, 720-354-4880, http://clyffordstillmuseum.org. Reviewed November 10.
Colorado Abstract Expressionism. Presenting an exhibit on abstraction in Colorado at the Kirkland makes a lot of sense, since the museum's namesake, Vance Kirkland, was the first local abstract painter to have elicited notice. Plus, director Hugh Grant has done more to champion the region's art history than anyone else. The show Grant conceived is really four interrelated exhibits. First is the Kirkland solo, with Grant installing the main exhibition room with the artist's work, as well as putting pieces on display in the old studio. Then, in the smaller exhibition room, there's the work of Kirkland's contemporaries. Scattered throughout are the two other legs of this sprawling show — the abstract sculptures and later abstraction in painting — separated from the permanent displays only by the colored strips on the identifying labels. The abstract-sculpture group includes pieces by both historic and contemporary artists, as does the later-abstraction section. There are so many marvelous things in Colorado Abstract Expressionism, its amorphousness winds up being a minor complaint. Through April 1 at the Kirkland Museum, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576,www.kirklandmuseum.org. Reviewed December 8.
Robert Adams. Robert Adams: The Place We Live, at the Denver Art Museum, is made up of more than 200 black-and-white prints put together by the Yale University Art Gallery's Joshua Chuang and Jock Reynolds. But for its stop in Denver, DAM photo curator Eric Paddock, a longtime friend of Adams's, tweaked the traveling show, becoming a co-curator of sorts. The Place We Live forces viewers to realize that Adams did many other things aside from his famous and unforgettable images indicting humanity's destruction of the earth — though they are enough to ensure his place in art history. The show includes a number of revelations. First is how intimate his pieces are, owing to their small size. Second is his unexpected debt to the great survey photographers of the nineteenth century, notably Timothy O'Sullivan. Finally, from a technical standpoint, there is the incredible high quality of his prints, which likewise recall historic landscape photos. Through January 1 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed October 27.