Amy Metier. The William Havu Gallery is currently showing Amy Metier: Preconceived Notions, a marvelous solo that's filled with modernist-derived abstractions. The show — Metier's first in-town solo in two years — fills the gallery's entire main level, not only with her signature paintings, but also with prints featuring experimental compositions that are decidedly unlike those in the paintings; there is also a group of distinctive little drawings/collages, which are thoroughly unexpected. The works on paper — the prints and the drawings/collages — may indicate a new direction for Metier, as they seem much more non-objective than the paintings; those are fairly classic Metiers, with references to landscapes or still-life scenes. The prints — linocuts and monotypes — are completely different, with a mostly hard-edged approach to the forms. Also indicating a new direction are the extremely small mixed-media works, in which loose grids have been used to organize the compositions. Through June 7 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, williamhavugallery.com. Reviewed May 15.
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.
Frank Sampson. Throughout his long career, Frank Sampson — who moved to Boulder in 1960 to teach painting at the University of Colorado — has always swum upstream, stylistically speaking. Though the local contemporary scene, like that of the art world in general, was embracing abstraction and conceptual art during those years, Sampson tenaciously held on to to his idiosyncratic approach to figural compositions. His style is informed by a storybook or magic-realist sensibility. Now in his '80s, Sampson is still at work in his studio, as he proves in Frank Sampson: New Paintings, now at Sandra Phillips Gallery. The signature pieces here start with the muddy ochre-toned, old-master-ish environments that he likes to conjure up; he then inserts oddball elements like anthropomorphized animals, jesters or other unexpected characters, another of his favorite pursuits. These details may be read as either whimsical or ominous, depending on the overall character of the particular painting in which they appear. Through June 7 at Sandra Phillips Gallery, 420 West 12th Avenue, 303-573-5969, thesandraphillipsgallery.
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.
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