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.
El Anatsui. This traveling exhibition is El Anatsui's first-ever retrospective. It was organized by the Museum for African Art in New York by curator Lisa Binder, with the Denver Art Museum's Nancy Blomberg, head of the Native Arts Department, acting as host curator. A Ghanaian by birth, Anatsui spent most of his career in Nigeria, where he was a professor of art. It was during this time that he had his Eureka! moment — when he crossed indigenous African forms with international sensibilities in a series of wooden trays, common fixtures of the local markets. The altered trays are brilliant, anticipating everything that would come later. From this modest beginning, Anatsui worked in a wide range of mediums, eventually hitting on the thing that established his world wide fame: his woven-metal wall hangings. These undulating abstract tapestries are made of smashed metal bottle caps formed into rectilinear shapes, and the colors of the found caps are masterfully arranged so that they seem to shimmer. Through December 30 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed September 20.
Judy Pfaff et al. The spectacular in-depth solo, Judy Pfaff, stretches into several of the exhibition rooms at the remarkably capacious Robischon Gallery. Pfaff is an acknowledged master of contemporary installation art, and her example has been a source of inspiration for generations of younger artists, including two former students, Ann Hamilton and Jessica Stockholder. As the show unfolds, viewers are confronted by all-over abstract wall-relief sculptures that literally glow due to the incorporation of fluorescent lights. The fluorescent tubes are essentially hidden behind accumulations of honeycomb cardboard, expanded foam and all manner of plastic, much of it stretched into organic shapes. Many also incorporate ready-made Chinese lanterns, which work very well with the overall expressionist compositions. The atmosphere these pieces create in the gallery is magical. The Pfaff solo is bracketed by two others — a small show, Ana Maria Hernando, and a larger one, Katy Stone. Though all three have distinct visions. their respective pieces flow together. Through October 27 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, www.robischongallery.com. Reviewed October 18.
Mark Chagall and Michelle Barnes. The pair of offerings at the Singer Gallery in the Mizel Arts and Culture Center puts together the work of a deceased modern master from Europe with pieces done by an established Denver artist. The pattern that connects them is the topic of the Old Testament. The interlocking exhibits were organized by Singer curator Simon Zalkind. The design of the gallery allows Zalkind to mount two solos simultaneously, and he has installed Marc Chagall and the Bible on the perimeter walls, while Michelle Barnes: The Good Book is hung on the two double-sided diagonal walls in the center. The Chagalls — etchings and lithographs mostly dating from the '50s to the '80s — are magnificent. They were collected by Wayne F. Yakes, an important local enthusiast. The Barnes acrylic paintings, done in the late 1990s, are a revelation. Taking on the same topics as Chagall — Adam and Eve, Joseph and his Brothers, etc. — Barnes infuses these tiny, jewel-like paintings with a whiff of the pre-modern symbolist movement, plus a little dash of swords-and-sandals Hollywood. Through December 20 at the Singer Gallery, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360, www.maccjcc.org.
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.
William Joseph. The Kirkland Museum has a lot to recommend it, but its greatest service to the community is the way it continually resurrects the careers of all-but-forgotten Colorado artists. That's exactly the point of William Joseph: Sculptor & Painter, which showcases the half-century-long career of this deceased Denver artist and teacher. If his name is obscure, his work isn't; some of Joseph's major sculptures are in very public places around town — notably, the Christopher Columbus monument in the Civic Center. The show was put together by Kirkland director Hugh Grant and museum registrar and deputy curator Christopher Herron, who combed the contents of the artist's estate (which is still held by Joseph's family) and contacted collectors in order to gather the material. Though Joseph is surely best remembered for his sculpture, the Kirkland show puts extra attention on his paintings. As with his three-dimensional work, Joseph combined abstraction and representations of the figure to come up with his signature style. Through November 11 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576, www.kirklandmuseum.com.
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