Clyfford Still. For the opening of the Clyfford Still Museum, director Dean Sobel has installed a career survey of the great artist that 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. Then there's his first great leap forward, as the representational surrealist works give way to abstract ones. 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. Through December 31 at the Clyfford Still Museum, 1250 Bannock Street, 720-354-4880, clyffordstillmuseum.org. Reviewed January 31.
Jenny Morgan. Though she was born and raised in Salt Lake City and has lived in New York for nearly a decade, painter Jenny Morgan has maintained her presence in the Denver art scene through regular exhibits at Plus Gallery. Her latest effort, Kith and Kin: New Paintings by Jenny Morgan, is a small solo — there are only eight paintings — but that's enough to handsomely lay out her current painterly concerns. Morgan is a contemporary realist whose paintings are based on photos. However, she is not a photo-realist; her work references other approaches, such as pop art and conceptualism. As the exhibit's title suggests, the subjects of the paintings are Morgan's friends and relatives. The resulting portraits, which are way over life-sized, reveal that Morgan has astounding technical skills, as she is able to render the models with a high degree of accuracy. She even shows off by carrying out some areas as though they are out-of-focus. A couple of the portraits have blocked-out passages painted as flat silhouettes in bold colors, a la pioneering conceptualist John Baldessari. Through July 14 at Plus Gallery, 2501 Larimer Street, 303-296-0927, www.plusgallery.com.
Parson in Perspective. This is a major show for a major local artist, and it includes pieces that Charles Parson has done over the past decade or so, many of which have never been exhibited in Denver. Parson has followed his own course since the 1970s, building sculptures and installations that bridge the gap between abstraction and conceptual art and between the figure and the landscape. His typical materials are ready-made hardware like nuts and bolts, and sheets of steel, glass and stone, as well as found materials like iron fragments from demolished structures and broken stone. Parson's pieces have a decidedly architectonic character and could even pass as building ornaments, but there's a lot more going on. First, many are totemic, while others suggest the shape of altars, gates or stanchions. These associations give the work an unspecified spirituality. Second, Parson has used industrial materials to convey said spirituality — an unlikely choice. Third, in size and shape, these works can be viewed as stand-ins for the human figure. Through June 30 at Z Art Department, 1136 Speer Boulevard, 303-298-8432, www.zartdept.com. Reviewed May 17.
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Theodore Waddell. With the increasing interest in modern and contemporary Western art, Theodore Waddell's Abstract Angus, curated by the DAM's Thomas Smith, is perfectly timed. From the entrance to the Gates Family Gallery, visitors are confronted by "Monida Angus," a mural so big you can't see it all until you get inside. Running across four large panels, the painting — which was specially created for this show — depicts cattle grazing in the foreground of a mountain range. Or at least that's what it looks like from across the room, because when you get up close, the cattle and scrub and even the mountains and sky are nothing more than rough and heavy smears of paint. This is true of all the Waddells here; some of them are almost non-objective, with hardly any landscape referents at all. For instance, "Motherwell's Angus," from the DAM's collection, is made up solely of a scruffy, dirty-white color field over which black dashes have been randomly inserted to stand in for the cows on a snow-covered plain. Through December 2 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed June 28.
— Michael Paglia