Now Showing: Capsule reviews of current exhibits
Allen True's West. Allen Tupper True was Denver's premier muralist during the first third of the twentieth century. Sadly, many of his commissions have been painted over or were lost when the buildings they were in were demolished. In an act of cooperation, the three big cultural institutions on the Civic Center are jointly presenting a three-part blockbuster in True's honor, the first time in many years such a collaboration has been attempted. At the Denver Public Library, on the fifth floor, is Allen True and American Illustration, examining his early work in illustration. In the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building is Allen True the Fine Artist, which examines his easel painting career. And finally, there's Art for the Public: Allen True's Murals, on the lower level of the Colorado History Museum. The shows demonstrate that True was a top talent and will help to correct the fact that he's mostly been forgotten. Through March 28 at the Denver Public Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-1111, www.denverlibrary.org; the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org; Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway, 303-866-3682, www.coloradohistory.org. Reviewed January 7.
Amy Metier et al. The impressive Amy Metier: Palimpsest features recent paintings by one of Colorado's foremost abstract painters, Amy Metier, who lives in Boulder and works in Denver. Metier's style relates back to early-twentieth-century vanguard painting, combining elements of cubism and abstract expressionism. Her large canvases and small works on paper fill the main space at Havu, while a group of metal sculptures by Robert Delaney, most of them suspension pieces, hang from the ceiling. Though non-objective in form, a couple of pieces in Robert Delaney: Kinetic Sculptures refer to animals, including "Bad Kitty," done in black powder-coated aluminum. Installed in the salon space is something of a memorial show: Jeremy Hillhouse 1940 – 2009 is made up of paintings, mostly in acrylic on canvas, by the late Denver painter. In these works, Hillhouse used views of the plains as starting points for abstractions. Finally, up on the mezzanine, is Betsy Margolius, which comprises quirky contemporary representational images done in mixed media on paper. Through April 10 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, www.williamhavugallery.com.
Clark Richert: 1960s to the Present. Surely among the top abstractionists working in Colorado is Clark Richert, a renowned geometric abstractionist and an influential teacher. This handsome exhibit is a brief survey of his aesthetic development. Despite the fact that the installation isn't in chronological order, the earliest piece, "Blue Room," from 1964, is placed at the start of the show. This painting anticipates Richert's later pieces, but only in retrospect, as the two key characteristics associated with Richert's work — hard edges and all-over patterns — are suggested in it. The first pieces in his early mature style feature meticulous, fanatically detailed patterns; a marvelous example is 1977's "I.C.E." "World Game," from 1990, is very different in that it is an illustration of three-dimensional space instead of being flat like Richert's earlier pieces (though it does hark back to "Blue Room"). Of the fifteen paintings here, nine were done since 2000, which might be why the decision was made not to put them in date order. Through March 12 at the Philip J. Steele Gallery, Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, 1600 Pierce Street, Lakewood, 303-753-6046, www.rmcad.edu. Reviewed February 18.
Embrace! Christoph Heinrich, the Denver Art Museum's director-in-waiting, has unveiled his over-the-top installation show, Embrace! The sprawling exhibit meanders through the four levels of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building, with the atrium becoming the central axis. The idea was to have artists create pieces in response to the outlandish spaces found throughout the unconventional building. Heinrich favored works that allow viewers to walk into them, and since he's partial to painting, that medium plays the starring role (rather than new media, as might be expected). Heinrich selected seventeen artists, and they make for an international cast, including Katharina Grosse from Germany, China's Zhong Biao and El Anatsui from Ghana. But there's also a trio of Denver artists — Rick Dula, John McEnroe and Timothy Weaver, working together with his students from the University of Denver — and bravo to Heinrich for that. Through April 4 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed November 26.
100+ Years of Colorado Art. Kirkland Museum founder and director Hugh Grant has done more for the history of Colorado art in the few short years that he's been collecting than the Denver Art Museum has done in a century. He's also been generous about lending his pieces to other venues, including the Arvada Center, where Kirkland Museum Collection: 100+ Years of Colorado Art is on display. Grant has gleaned 165 works from the museum's impressive collection, filling most of the center to its capacity. To organize the wide range of work, Grant created seven different divisions: realism, impressionism, surrealism, referential abstraction, pure abstraction, works done after 1975 and works on paper. As can be surmised, these categories aren't parallel to one another, and furthermore, they are fluid and open-ended. This is a minor complaint, though, considering Grant's great strength in acquiring the pieces. Through April 4 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, www.arvadacenter.org. Reviewed March 4.
Remembering Dale Chisman. There's no question that Dale Chisman, who died in 2008, was one of the most important artists to have ever worked in Colorado, and his output set a high standard. Furthermore, Chisman had direct connections to other important Colorado artists like Martha Epp and Mary Chenoweth, both of whom were teachers of his. Like them, Chisman was an heir to the abstract-expressionist approach that dominated twentieth-century American art. This exhibit highlights his work from the late '80s and early '90s and includes a group of his remarkable paintings and an even larger selection of luscious prints. Z Art Department owner Randy Roberts and gallery director Paul Hughes have done a beautiful job with the installation, giving the show a strong visual statement. Chisman's strengths included his excellent sense for color and his automatist approach to the compositions. The prints, nearly all of which were pulled by Mark Lunning at his Open Press, are closely related to the paintings and include small, intimate works as well as large, elaborate ones. Extended to April 15 at Z Art Department, 1136 Speer Boulevard, 303-298-8432. Reviewed February 18.
Shape & Spirit. This wonderful selection of antique bamboo articles is the first show in the newly unveiled Walter and Mona Lutz Gallery on the fifth floor of the Denver Art Museum's Ponti building. Walter and Mona Lutz, for whom the gallery is named, began collecting bamboo from throughout Japan, where they lived; in the 1960s, they expanded their collecting to include bamboo pieces from the rest of Asia. The couple collected ahead of the curve, allowing them to find exquisite things in a wide range of categories. There are baskets, of course, which is what most people might think of when the idea of objects made of bamboo comes up, but there are also sculptures and lanterns, fans and brush-pots, trays and tea-ceremony utensils, among a wide range of both decorative and utilitarian objects. For Shape & Spirit, curator Ron Otsuka selected 200 items from the Lutz collection, which have been given to the DAM. And he has intelligently and beautifully installed them in minimalist-designed showcases made especially for the new gallery. Through March 31 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-866-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org.
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