1959. Dean Sobel, director of the Clyfford Still Museum, is the host curator for Modern Masters at the Denver Art Museum, and he's done a companion exhibit at his own stamping grounds called 1959: The Albright-Knox Art Gallery Exhibition Recreated. (Special tickets allow visitors to see both.) The backstory for the CSM exhibit is that the Still show at the Albright-Knox in 1959 marked the first exhibit of the artist's work after he famously withdrew from the art world in 1951. Sobel is relentlessly trying to keep things interesting at the CSM, and this show definitely does that. Still had nothing but contempt for most museums, but he had a soft spot for the Albright-Knox. Still curated that show himself, and it's interesting to note that he included not only his then-recent work but also pieces that were twenty years old at the time, thus providing viewers with the chance to understand how he viewed his own trajectory from abstract surrealism to abstract expressionism. The show also has lots of documentary material, including photos of the original show and a recording of Still reading the catalogue essay he wrote. Through June 15 at the Clyfford Still Museum, 1250 Bannock Street, 720-354-4880, clyffordstillmuseum.org.
Modern Masters. The blockbuster formula continues to work at the Denver Art Museum — as is evident in the out-of-this-world Modern Masters: 20th Century Icons From the Albright-Knox Gallery. A traveling show, the Denver version was curated by Dean Sobel, director of the Clyfford Still Museum. (Sobel also did a companion exhibit there that can be seen with the same admission ticket.) The selections begin with the giants of post-impressionism — there's a Gauguin that will stop you in your tracks — and run up to the masters of minimalism and pop art. Truly, the strength of the collection is in abstract expressionism, with some of the greatest masterpieces of that movement on view, including major signature examples by the likes of Gorky, Pollock, Motherwell, Rothko and Still, among others. Visionary collectors and curators at the Albright-Knox were able to assemble such a trove of riches by often buying the pieces when they were still new and thus still affordable. These are some of the most important works of art to have ever been shown in Colorado. Do not miss this show. Through June 8 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed April 10.
Nest/Shed. Lauri Lynnxe Murphy established her name in Colorado over the past two decades as both an artist and an art advocate, but she fell off the radar for a few years while earning her MFA at Ohio State University. It was there that world-renowned installation artist Ann Hamilton became one of Murphy's mentors. When a mature artist returns to school, there can be disastrous results due to over-thinking. But if the elegant Nest/Shed at Mai Wyn Fine Art is any indication, Murphy's time in grad school served her well, especially her association with Hamilton, whose influence on the artist's work is keenly felt. Nest/Shed sounds like it refers to shelter, and although the "nest" part does, the "shed" part refers to the act of shedding, as a snake sheds its skin. Underlining this point are pieces of deconstructed wasp's nest and bits of snake skin, both materials being used in collages. There's a whiff of Hamilton in all of the pieces, but the installation that anchors the whole show, "What Remains," is downright Hamiltonian. Through April 25 at Mai Wyn Fine Art, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 720-252-0500, maiwyn.com. Reviewed April 17.
Open Press. The Month of Printmaking — this year dubbed Mo'Print — is held in even-numbered years in March, and this year it has spilled into April. It alternates with the well-established Month of Photography, which is presented in odd-numbered years. Among the organizers of Mo'Print is Mark Lunning, one of the state's best-known printers. It makes sense, then, that the marquee event would celebrate Lunning's vast achievements — hence the impressive and gigantic Open Press: Celebrating 25 Years of Printmaking. Lunning chose thirty artists who had made deep commitments to Open Press over the years and gave each of them an individual section. And he included another twenty artists whose work is represented in various portfolios he's organized. In addition to being an artisan who executes the work of others, Lunning is an artist himself and included his own work — notably, the prints from his "Urban Garden" series, in which he combines abstractions of plants with simplified structural forms evocative of buildings. It turns out that this accounting of Lunning's output as a master printer also charts the development of contemporary art in greater Denver over the past quarter-century; it's a who's-who of local contemporary painters. Through April 27 at the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue, 720-865-4303, artsandvenuesdenver.com. Reviewed March 20.
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