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.
Katie Caron and Martha Russo; Jerry Morris. An over-the-top installation anchors Oxytocin: Katie Caron and Martha Russo, the title of which refers to a hormone associated with childbirth. Though both artists have established reputations in ceramics, this installation falls into the mixed-media category, as clay is just one of several materials used. And it's clearly part of the same series with "Apoptosis," which was displayed at the Denver Art Museum last year. Caron and Russo, both from northern Colorado, have each enhanced — annotated? — the main work by including their individual works, the ideas of which were brought together in this singular collaborative piece, which is fabulous. Also on view are the two installations that make up Pendent Tendencies: Jerry Morris. Taking on big issues such as wisdom and politics, Morris uses hanging Plexiglas and ceramic and plastic elements to abstractly lay out his ideas, which are heavily influenced by Eastern philosophy. Morris, a relatively new member of this up-and-coming co-op, is an emerging artist who lives and works in Colorado Springs. Through January 28 at Ice Cube Gallery, 3320 Walnut Street, 303-292-1822, http://icecubegallery.com.
West of Center. Rambling over the three levels of MCA Denver, this exhibit is part of an informal national trend that aims to upwardly reappraise the place of the American West in the art world. The show, the full title of which is West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965-1977, was organized by director Adam Lerner and his wife and co-curator, Elissa Auther; they also co-edited a scholarly catalogue on the subject, the scope of which is far broader than that of this exhibit. The displays are not sequential, but rather a series of completely autonomous presentations, each devoted to a different part of the topic. The curators have cast a wide net, in the process deconstructing standard ideas about art in the West from that time, typically seen as being dominated by psychedelic posters — which aren't even included here. Instead they present the Cockettes drag-queen group, Black Panther broadsides and the utopian Ant Farm Collective. The show's crescendo centers on Colorado's own Drop City. Through February 19 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org. Reviewed December 22.
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