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.
Dimensional Shifts. For this show, gallery director Bill Havu selected six artists who play with space by foreshortening it, elongating it or otherwise altering it. But one of them, Susan Cooper, is the main attraction, as she has more works here than any other artist. Cooper, who has a number of pieces in public places, is known for her compressed geometric views of everyday environments like cityscapes and interiors. Marking a change for her, though, are her recent wall-hung bronze casts of rooms. There's a whimsical character to these Coopers that links them to the back-lighted shadowboxes by Susanna Richter-Helman and Mark Helman, working as a team. In these pieces, tiny landscapes are depicted with details — like a tornado, in one — on "belts" of paper that move via a machine. There are also paintings by Aaron Karp, wood constructions by Charles Counter, and prints and small sculptures by Orna Feinstein. Through July 14 at William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, www.williamhavugallery.com.
Jeneve Parrish and WCIAC. In the front space at Edge, the member's show is Jeneve Parrish: The Passage, a solo devoted to an artist from the Northwest who has lived in Denver for the past few years. Using watercolors, inks and oddball materials like string, Parrish creates smudgy yet hyperrealist compositions. The best works in this uneven show are the landscapes and architectural views, all of which are very good. The oversized disconnected body parts, though equally well done, seem out of place, however. This incongruousness reminds us that one of a co-op's strong points is that it's a place where artists get to present their work without the intervention of a curator — but that missing component is also one of its chief shortcomings. That same problem is writ large in the show in the middle space, Artwork From the Western Cast Iron Alliance Conference. The group was founded by art professors throughout the West — Rian Kerrane at the University of Colorado Denver is the local connection — and the pieces were created in Kansas this spring. But the design of this display is a mess. Through July 15 at Edge Gallery, 3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173, edgeart.org.
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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.
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.
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.