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, clyffordstillmuseum.org. Reviewed January 31.
Connection and Mai Wyn Schantz. For Connection, Space Gallery director Michael Burnett has put three very different artists together. First is Michael McClung, who works in the unusual medium of burned paper — a technique referred to as "pyromania." In many of these works, McClung uses a shaped, heated iron to impress all-over patterns across the composition. Opposite the McClungs are some simple circular compositions made of cut and translucent sheets of paper that are both minimalist and vaguely traditional. Accenting these wall pieces are sculptures, some of which have been suspended from the ceiling, by Marleen Seckendorf. These abstract pieces are light and lyrical and were made from twigs bound together with string. The best of them really work, with the pieces conveying both a sense of presence and one of being barely there, like three-dimensional scribbles. Finally, in the back are some strange takes on traditional Western art by Mai Wyn Schantz in which she paints classic icons — aspens, stags — on aluminum sheets, allowing the bare metal to fill the backgrounds. Through May 19 at Space Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, www.spacegallery.org.
Metier, Clapper, Lobato. Gallery director Bill Havu has brought together a trio of the state's top abstract artists for this show. The marquee event is The Space in Between: Amy Metier. Though it could definitely be said that this selection of strong compositions are well within Metier's signature style, they are also more consciously representational than her work of the last few years. But these new pieces do hark back to her early work of a couple of decades ago. Essentially, she's using actual settings as a taking-off point for her expressive brushwork. Inserted throughout the Metier show are small sculptures that are both minimalist and organic in form; these make up the self-titled Michael Clapper. One of the sculptor's great strengths is the way he effectively combines different materials. Do not miss Emilio Lobato, upstairs on the mezzanine, where the notable artist is presenting a selection of his recent neo-constructivist wall-relief sculptures made of found and ready-made materials. These pieces represent a coherent extension of Lobato's abstract paintings. Through May 26 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, www.williamhavugallery.com.
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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