Breaking the Mold. In 2003, Connecticut collector Virginia Vogel Mattern donated some 300 pieces of contemporary American Indian art to the Denver Art Museum. For one of the special shows inaugurating the new Frederic C. Hamilton Building, Native Arts curator Nancy Blomberg has selected over a hundred works for the impressive Breaking the Mold: The Virginia Vogel Mattern Collection of Contemporary Native American Art, which is installed in the Martin & McCormick Gallery on level two. Mattern began collecting in 1992, when she purchased a miniature pot by Delores Curran in Santa Fe; though she remained interested in miniatures, she also pursued prize-winning pieces from annual American Indian art shows, focused on multiple generations of the Tafoya and Nampayo families and explored through pottery, textiles and paintings the interrelationships of the Navajo, Zuni and San Ildefonso peoples. But Mattern was also interested in innovation -- the "breaking the mold" of the show's title -- with such pieces as Hubert Candelario's coiled clay jar with holes cut into the sides so that it's non-functional, but beautiful. Through August 31, 2007, at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed November 23.
Iron, Et Cetera. This is a group presentation of sculptors organized by artists Rian Kerrane and Mark Guilbeau. Both have lived in the region for the past few years, and both teach art. Drawing from their friends, former students and colleagues across the country, Kerrane and Guilbeau selected pieces that feature the use of some kind of casting. Most often the sculptures are examples of metal casting -- typically cast iron -- but there are a few things done in other materials. In addition to including their own work, Kerrane and Guilbeau taped Tobias Flores, Shereen Lobdell, David Seiler, David Lawrence Jones, Ashley Hope Carlisle and many others. The luminous glycerin "Lifesaver," by Viviane Le Courtois, is one of the real standouts. There's quite a bit of interesting material in Iron, but the selections are uneven, and there's more than one dog in this manger. Plus, connecting works of art according to how they are made is an inadequate device on which to hang a theme show. Through February 9, Ironton Studios & Gallery, 3636 Chestnut Place, 303-297-8626. Reviewed February 1.
Japanese Art. The spectacular exhibit Japanese Art From the Colorado Collection of Kimiko and John Powers is installed in the Gallagher Family Gallery of the Denver Art Museum's new Hamilton Building. It was put together by Ron Otsuka, the esteemed curator of Asian art who has built an important collection during his thirty-plus years at the institution. Decades ago, Otsuka established a friendship with the Powerses, which is why they put their collection of more than 300 Japanese masterworks on long-term loan with the DAM. It's from this hoard that Otsuka chose the more than 100 objects he included in Japanese Art. As collectors, the Powerses were old-fashioned connoisseurs who chose things based on their innate fineness. "They were certainly very selective," says Otsuka in something of an understatement, considering the high quality of these pieces. The Powerses, who are also known for their stunning modern-art collection, sought out Japanese works of art that anticipate modernism despite that fact that they are hundreds of years old. Through September 9 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed January 25.
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RADAR. With its outlandish appearance, the Denver Art Museum's new Frederic C. Hamilton Building has overshadowed what's on display inside. There are a few exceptions to this, and first among them is RADAR: Selections From the Collection of Vicki & Kent Logan, installed in the Anschutz Gallery on the second level. Put together by Dianne Vanderlip, the outgoing curator of the Modern and Contemporary Art department, RADAR includes sections on the cutting edge in Asia, Europe and America. Many of the works were donated by the Logans, who live in Vail and are among the most important collectors of contemporary art in the country -- and, in recent years, among the DAM's most significant donors, having given as gifts over 200 works of art and promised hundreds more. Some of the biggest names in international art are in the show, among them Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, Zhang Huan, Damien Hirst, Jenny Saville, Michel Majerus, Neo Rauch, Carroll Dunham, Kiki Smith, George Condo and Fred Tomaselli, all represented by major works. An absolute must-see. Through July 15 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed December 28.
(REAL): Photographic Constructs. An important show at the Center for Visual Art, being co-sponsored by the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, (REAL): Photographic Constructs was put together by CVA director Jennifer Garner and assistant director Cecily Cullen. The co-curators selected eight artists pushing photography to the breaking point. The exhibit, which includes local talents as well as others from across the country, has been perfectly installed. It's essentially a series of individual presentations unfolding one after another. Among the standouts are the digital prints on Kool-Aid packets by Jon Rietfors; the flat still life shots made 3-D in black-and-white photos by Zeke Berman; the installation of hinged wooden boxes incorporating photos by Gwen Laine; the sci-fi style multi-media piece with light bulbs, wire, jars and digital images of trees by David Zimmer; and the digitally altered suburban psychodramas done in richly colored c-prints by Gregory Crewdsom. There are also marvelous things by Susan Harbage Page, Bruce Charlesworth, and Meridel Rubenstein. Through February 23, Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207. Reviewed January 18.
60 Years of Colorado Modernism, et al. Among the specialties of the Kirkland Museum in Capitol Hill is art made in Colorado -- in particular, modern art, which makes sense, because the late Vance Kirkland, for whom the museum is named, was Denver's premier mid-century modernist. The current exhibit, 60 Years of Colorado Modernism, put together by director and founder Hugh Grant, ambles through the two-story facility, with pieces culled from the museum's extensive collection, including examples by Kirkland himself along with the work of Herbert Bayer, Al Wynne, Robert Mangold, Beverly Rosen, Martha Daniels, Betty Woodman and more. Another specialty of the Kirkland is design and decor, and the other show there, From Framing to Furnishing, highlights architects' work owned by the Kirkland. This show, too, runs throughout the museum, with pieces indicated by special blue tags. Creations by legendary designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Joseph Hoffman, Donald Deskey, Gio Ponti and scores of others are featured. Through March 4 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576. Reviewed December 21.
Susan Cooper: Pursuing Perspective. This solo is very tightly focused on works concerning the differences between painting and sculpture. Denver artist Cooper has expressed this dialectic in several different ways, including installations, wall sculptures and even works on paper. Cooper has been a fixture of the contemporary art scene in Denver since she moved here in 1975. Stylistically, she does a personalized version of cubism, and this seems appropriate for creations concerning the nature of perspective, both the painted type and small installations. The shapes she uses are based on those of furniture, but her tables and beds are not fully formed and instead are flattened according to two-dimensional techniques such as foreshortening. In other words, they are sculptures built according to the rules of painting. Cooper's work is difficult despite the familiar shapes, friendly colors and crisp detailing. It's the attempt to bridge painting and sculpture that makes her work both and neither. Through February 17 at William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360. Reviewed February 1.