Apparition. The brand-new Gallery Severn, which is owned by art collector and retired executive Andy Dodd, aims to be what he has called a "launch pad" for emerging artists. This specialty in fresh faces instantly makes the place interesting. Also interesting is Dodd's decision to feature only one artist at a time so that the gallery can promote individuals, individually. Limiting inventory in this way seems like a risky business move, but who knows? It might just work. For the inaugural exhibition, Apparition: The Act of Appearing, Dodd chose to highlight abstract paintings by Dante Ortiz, a young artist who is little known in Denver. Born in Colorado, Ortiz was educated at the Rhode Island School of Design, earning degrees in landscape architecture and fine arts. This led directly to his founding of Studio Forma, a landscape design firm in Boulder. Last year he started painting again, creating the abstracts of overlapping color fields set off by enthusiastic scribbles that make up this show. These bright Ortiz paintings look pretty good in the tidy space. Through June 30 at Gallery Severn, 3210 Tejon Street, 303-532-9369.
Decades of Influence. This four-part extravaganza is not only the magnum opus for MCA director Cydney Payton's career thus far, but it's also one of the most important shows to be presented in the area in years. Decades of Influence: Colorado 1985-Present goes a long way in demonstrating how vast and sophisticated the art scene is around here, especially when you start to list in your mind all the important players who aren't included. The exhibit starts at the MCA with the 1985 to 1995 portion, then continues on at the Center for Visual Art, a co-sponsor of the show, where artists representing 1996 to 2006 are ensconced. Then there's the Gates Sculpture Triangle, where outdoor creations are displayed, and finally the Carol Keller Project Space, which houses an installation. There's a members-only reception from 5 to 6 p.m. on Friday, June 16, with the general opening running from 6 to 9 p.m. at all four venues. Through August 27 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street; Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street; Gates Sculpture Triangle, 1551 Wewatta Street; and Carol Keller Project Space, 1513 Boulder Street. For information, call 303-298-7554.
Emmi Whitehorse et al. Joan Markowitz, senior curator and co-director of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, has put together a trio of single-artist shows. First is Emmi Whitehorse, a solo dedicated to recent work by the nationally known New Mexico artist. Whitehorse was raised on a Navajo reservation and attended the University of New Mexico before becoming famous in New York during the 1980s. She does abstract paintings and prints that incorporate Navajo imagery and words. Whitehorse recently worked in Lyons, near Boulder, producing prints at Shark's Ink. The second show, Tracy Krumm, highlights this artist's woven-metal sculptures, which explore gender issues by juxtaposing industrial material with the domestic method. Krumm is a teacher of fiber art at the Kansas City Art Institute. The last show is Mica Chamber, a site-specific installation by Colorado artist Rebecca DiDomenico, who has used layers of thousands of mica rectangles and thousands of black-and-white photos to suggest the passage of her life. Through July 29 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 303-443-2122.
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James McNeill Whistler. For the first time in seventy years, there are no art shows on display at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, that gorgeous New Mexi-deco-style landmark by John Gaw Meem. But that doesn't mean the place is closed down. On the contrary, while the Meem building is being expanded, the CSFAC has opened an annex in downtown Colorado Springs to keep the institution up and running and in the eye of the public. The new space has been dubbed FAC Modern and is located in the Plaza of the Rockies complex. Currently on display there is James McNeill Whistler. Whistler was one of the great artists of the nineteenth century. Born in America, he spent almost his entire career in London and Paris, where he was associated with the impressionists. Despite that connection, he wasn't one of them -- even if he did do many impressionist-style works. The pieces in this show are from the collection of Scotland's Hunterian Art Gallery and include a few small paintings, a handful of objects owned by Whistler and, for the main course, his famous etchings and other works on paper. Through August 20 at FAC Modern, 121 Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581.
Jeff Aeling and Joellyn Duesberry. Bill Havu, owner of the William Havu Gallery, has a taste for weird combos, but he's come up with a compatible duo this time. In the main space is Jeff Aeling, a solo of super-realistic photo-inspired landscapes and seascapes. In the intimate space in the back is Joellyn Duesberry: Hidden Treasures, and on the mezzanine is New Monotypes by Joellyn Duesberry. The split-level shows mostly comprise abstracted Western landscapes. Aeling lives in St. Louis for most of the year, but during the summers he makes trips out West in order to deal with his scenery-deprived surroundings. His heroically scaled paintings are mostly about the sky rising above the high plains. Aeling's technical proficiency is breathtaking, and his paintings almost look like blown-up color photos. Duesberry, one of Colorado's most famous contemporary representational artists, is featured in the twin mini-shows highlighting her recent Western landscapes. These poetic pictures are highly abstracted, with mere smears and swirls of color standing in for the rocks and trees. Both through July 1 at William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360. Reviewed June 8.
New Talent. Space Gallery, one of the top spots in the Santa Fe Arts District, has presented a juried show annually for the past three years. The current edition is titled New Talent, and the jury was made up of Michael Burnett, director of Space; Tyler Aiello, formerly of Studio Aiello and now running the Tar Factory; and Justin Brunelle, owner of Soke Fine Art. There are several problems with this outing, and they can be laid firmly at the feet of the jury. Burnett, Aiello and Brunelle may have had some laughs together, but they made some very dubious picks. And the hanging leaves room for improvement, too, since the show completely falls apart toward the back. However, despite their collective efforts, a few great things did get in somehow. There are a pair of dark, patterned abstracts by Conor O'Donnell, and three mostly black expressionist compositions by Sarah Fox. But the major revelation is the striking and painterly "Michael + Molly," which depicts a male nude holding a dog. The painting is by Wyoming artist Penelope Caldwell, who is little known in Denver. Through June 17 at Space Gallery, 757 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088. Reviewed June 1.
roadside attractions. Justin Brunelle's newish Soke Fine Art is adjacent to Space Gallery and connected to it by a doorway. Soke was formerly in Minturn, but Brunelle it moved down to Denver this past spring. roadside attractions spotlights paintings by Scott Lowenbaum, a 22-year-old artist from St. Louis, and marks the artist's Denver debut. Lowenbaum's paintings mostly include simplified renditions of chickens, which sounds cutesy but isn't. He puts the chickens in the foreground and poses them naturalistically. The resulting chickens are flattened forms that have been carried out in bold and cheerful shades, giving them a cartoon-like quality. The backgrounds are brushy suggestions of landscape created in washed-out colors. The paintings are stylistically sophisticated because Lowenbaum refers to an unlikely set of modern movements, including regionalism, color-field abstraction and pop art -- or at least a Midwestern barnyard variant of it. Despite the rural subject, there's an urbane quality to this work. Through July 2 at Soke Fine Art, 7571/2 Santa Fe Drive, 303-718-9042. Reviewed June 1.