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.
Marius Lehene and Ray Tomasso. There are many great exhibition spaces around, but the front room at Ice Cube Gallery — a co-op — is one of the best. Currently, as is typical, it's been divided in half, with member solos on either side. On the left is Marius Lehene: Sum Over Histories, which
combines drawings with three-dimensional creations — he calls them "tridimensional" — on the walls and hanging from the ceiling. Lehene has said that these pieces are derived from the sights he sees along the roads while he driving. (Let's hope he parks before he pulls out the sketch pad.) The tremendous subtlety of the light-colored Lehenes provides a perfect counterpoint to the mostly bold shades that predominate in Luminous Flux: Ray Tomasso, which fills the right side of the space and extends into the niche gallery at the back. For the past few years, Tomasso, a master of cast papermaking, has been working on large-format abstractions that represent a cross between paintings and wall-relief sculptures, and he's been getting better and better at it. Through May 19 at Ice Cube Gallery, 3320 Walnut Street, 303-292-1822, www.icecubegallery.com. Reviewed May 10.
Persistent Terrain. Curators and gallery directors sometimes organize the work of different artists into thematic group efforts that function more like unrelated solos — and never jell into a coherent whole. That is the case right now at Ironton, where hyper-realist paintings by Lanny DeVuono sit uncomfortably cheek-by-jowl with neo-surrealist ones by Melissa Furness. DeVuono likes to capture aerial scenes as well as views of the sky, often putting different paintings together to form a single piece, some with picture planes at different levels. All of her work is carried out with an admirable level of technical skill, while her interesting palette tends toward moody and muted shades. Furness's pieces, on the other hand, are exuberant, colorful and expressive. One interesting feature of some of them is the elaborate patterns that serve as grounds but are so subtle that you need to look closely in order to perceive them clearly. Both artists have a lot to recommend them, but their pieces just don't interact well. Through May 19 at Ironton Studios and Gallery, 3636 Chestnut Place, 303-297-8626,www.irontonstudios.com. Reviewed April 26.
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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