Clyfford Still Unveiled. A master and pioneer of mid-twentieth-century abstract expressionism, painter Clyfford Still was something of an eccentric in the artist-as-egomaniac stripe. His antisocial behavior led to a situation where 94 percent of his artworks remained together after he died — a staggeringly complete chronicle of his oeuvre that is now owned by the City of Denver. As a planned Clyfford Still Museum won't be completed until 2010, the institution's founding director, Dean Sobel, decided to preview a baker's dozen of Still's creations at the Denver Art Museum. Sobel uses the very small show to lay out most of the artist's career and stylistic development. Still worked his way from regionalism to surrealism, then wound up developing abstract expressionism with one of the greatest abstract paintings imaginable, "1944 N No. 1" — and the rest is art history. Though too small to be considered a blockbuster, this exhibit is nonetheless an extremely important one that shouldn't be missed unless you aren't interested in art at all. Through September 30 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed July 26.
Eames 100: This Is the Trick. The exhibit's title refers to the fact that this year would have been furniture designer Charles Eames's one hundredth birthday, and the show was conceived as a celebration of his life's work. Eames, of course, is one of the most important designers of the twentieth century, and his pieces are ubiquitous features in airports, office buildings, schools, churches and homes across the country. Included are examples of his work as well as his arty collaborations with his second wife, Ray. The show was put together by Carla Hartman, who is Eames's granddaughter and a master teacher at the Eames Office in Los Angeles. She surveyed his career, with pieces taken mostly from her own Denver living room. But there are also some choice experimental models in the form of bent plywood leg studies, and twisted and welded metal bases. It's very unusual to get the chance to see such things, and amazing that these little beat-up bits were saved for all these years. Variations on the same conceptual theme, the studies reveal Eames's design process and his method of problem-solving. Through September 7 at Emmanuel Gallery on the Auraria campus, 303-556-8337. Reviewed August 23.
Karin Schminke and Norman Epp. According to gallery owner Bobbi Walker, this duet, featuring paintings by Karin Schminke and sculptures by Norman Epp, is her offbeat answer to the numerous conventional landscape shows presented in some of Denver's top venues this summer. Schminke's pieces start out as traditional plein-air nature studies, which she digitizes and prints out. The results are plant-based abstracts mounted on aluminum. Epp's sculptures are also abstractions based on plants, but in his case, trees provide both the inspiration and the material. Epps carves hardwood logs, using sinuous curves at times and geometric shapes at others; he also leaves much of the logs as he finds them. Because his work is made from trees, it's no stretch to say they make Walker Fine Art resemble a forest. The gallery is also featuring the work of three artists in back: Ben Strawn's calligraphic abstracts; metal and glass sculptures and wall pieces by Brian Scott; and Craig Robb's bas-relief assemblages combining constructivist and pop-art elements. Through September 8 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955.
Karen Schminke and Norman Epp
The Eclectic Eye. To inaugurate the recently unveiled expansion of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, director Michael De Marsche wanted to show off his new ability to accommodate temporary shows — something that wasn't feasible in the original building. So De Marsche brought in The Eclectic Eye: Pop and Illusion, highlighting the collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation in Los Angeles. The foundation owns important works by many of the biggest names active in vanguard art during the last half century. The pieces were purchased by the late Weisman, a zillionaire collector who started getting into contemporary art in the 1950s and who continued to snap things up until his death in 1994. This show, which began touring in 2005, features pieces by Andy Warhol, Robert Rosenquist, Keith Haring, Claus Oldenburg, Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Duane Hanson, David Hockney, Sigmar Polke and other art world luminaries. Through October 28 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5581.
Masters in Clay. Among the specialty niches that Sandra Phillips Gallery on Santa Fe Drive has found is Colorado ceramics. For several years now, the gallery has showcased contemporary pieces by some of the best clay artists around, but with this show, Carson has gone a step further. In addition to young talents, the gallery has added works by some acknowledged masters in the field. Paul Soldner, for example, is represented by pieces loaned by the American Ceramics Museum in California. Soldner was a protegé of Peter Voulkos and, like his mentor, a pioneer in abstract-expressionist ceramics. Soldner, now in his eighties, spent decades working in a studio in Basalt during the summers. Other key Colorado ceramicists featured here include the great Maynard Tischler and the remarkable Martha Daniels. Tischler does a variety of original forms, including sculptural vessels, while Daniels specializes in brightly colored abstracted figures. Filling out the roster are pieces by other noted Colorado artists including Carroll Hansen, Julie McNair, Amy Chavez, Bebe Alexander and Katie Caron. Though October 6 at Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 573-5969. Reviewed August 30.
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