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 December 31 at the Clyfford Still Museum, 1250 Bannock Street, 720-354-4880, http://clyffordstillmuseum.org. Reviewed January 31.
Ed Ruscha. Colorado is linked to the Beat Generation thanks to Neal Cassady and because it was a stopover Los Angeles-based conceptualist Ed Ruscha has taken quotes from that novel and created a series of works that incorporate and interpret them in photo-based landscapes or abstracts. The pieces are signature Ruschas, featuring floating text at the picture plane, with the images underneath receding behind it. Ruscha has his own Denver connection, through the massive multi-part mural "A Rolling History of Colorado and the West" in Schlessman Hall at the Denver Public Library. The DAM show is displayed in the Western-art galleries on level two of the Hamilton. Ruscha — and Kerouac, for that matter — are thus put into the context of Western art. In this way, the DAM is passively promoting the once-radical idea that Western art encompasses not just Remingtons, but Ruschas, too, and thereby supporting an ongoing shift in perceptions that's taking over the field. Ruscha is obviously a Western artist; after all, he lives and works in the West. Through April 22 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org.
The Human Touch. Unlike most corporate collections, which are dominated by traditional or abstract art in order to not offend customers, RBC Wealth Management has focused on contemporary representational art. And these pieces aren't safe depictions of little girls at wishing wells or little boys playing baseball; instead, they highlight the diverse identities of the artists involved, who are working in a range of recent stylistic manners. It's a bold move by RBC, which stands for Royal Bank of Canada, but it's got to be said that it could have only happened in Canada. There are more than 400 works in the collection, but for this show at RedLine, guest curator William Biety selected just 75. The group is filled with art-of-identity pieces, examples of pop art, and even a smattering of post-pop conceptualism. Among the artists at RedLine — mostly represented by works on paper — are Chuck Close, Ann Hamilton, Kerry James Marshall, Mimo Paladino, Roy Lichtenstein and many other big names. Through April 27 at RedLine, 2350 Arapahoe Street, 303-296-4448, http://redlineart.org.
Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin. Like many other shows presented in the last few months, the current solo at the Mizel's Singer Gallery is meant to celebrate last fall's opening of the Clyfford Still Museum. Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin comprises a gorgeous selection of more than a dozen paintings — some of which are enormous — by Golden's Andy Berg. Initially trained in the late '70s and early '80s at the Kansas City Art Institute, Berg put aside his brushes soon after he graduated, only picking them up again decades later, which was just a few years ago. Berg is a neo-abstract expressionist whose work comes directly out of that watershed style. These new paintings riff on any number of historic modernists as sources, in unexpected combinations. At times there's a whiff of Matisse, at others a hint of Hans Hofmann. There's even a little Jean-Michel Basquiat, especially in the pseudo writing that appears here and there. Speaking of writing, the title of the show — and of a spectacular triptych — translates to "the writing on the wall." Extended through April 30 at the Singer Gallery, Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360, www.maccjcc.org.
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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