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.
Chuck Forsman. The Denver Art Museum's curator of photography and media arts, Eric Paddock, has a special interest in photos of the American West. For Seen in Passing: Photographs by Chuck Forsman, Paddock chose works from two series by Forsman: "Western Rider" and "Walking Magpie." Beginning in the 1970s, Forsman became known nationally for his paintings, which deconstructed the landscape ideal of the great Romantic painters of the nineteenth century, such as Bierstadt. In these works, Forsman pointedly included incursions by humanity in otherwise pristine views; elements like quarries and road cuts are used to violate the natural beauty that surrounds them. Twenty years later, in the 1990s, Forsman realized that in the process of carrying on his career as a painter, he had also become an accomplished photographer, and he began to exhibit his photos. This is where the show at the DAM picks up the story. The photos, like Forsman's paintings, feature views with often disturbing juxtapositions of ugliness and beauty. Through May 25 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed April 24.
Forsman, Dorfman, Sharpe and Hayeur. The Robischon Gallery is presenting a quartet of solos, with all four featured artists looking at the landscape from a range of contemporary perspectives. In the initial set of spaces at the gallery is Chuck Forsman: Markers, which coincides with the Boulder artist's exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. But at Robischon, although photos are included, it's Forsman's iconic, environmentally informed paintings that dominate. Installed in the next set of rooms is Elena Dorfman: Empire Falling, which features digital montages based on images of abandoned and flooded quarries. Dorfman, who is based in L.A., has built her career on figure photography; this is her first series of landscapes. The next solo, David Sharpe: Waterthread, is the most poetic of the four. Colorado's Sharpe is nationally known for his large-scale pinhole photos, including color prints like the ones in this exhibit. The final show, in the screening room, is Isabelle Hayeur: Flow, a projected video of bucolic scenes that transition into shots of industry, smoke and trains. Through May 10 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, robischongallery.com. Reviewed April 24.
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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.