No doubt about it, the biggest art news this season has been the opening of the Clyfford Still Museum. Located near the Denver Art Museum, the CSM houses more than 90 percent of the abstract-expressionist pioneer's oeuvre — a gift from Still's estate, and that of his wife, to the city of Denver. And it could be argued that its establishment is one of the most important cultural happenings ever to take place in Denver. In celebration of this, and in partnership with the museum, several local art institutions have mounted salutes to Still or to the CSM, among the most interesting and unusual of which is Liz Miller: Recalcitrant Mimesis, at the David B. Smith Gallery.
Miller, a young and emerging artist from Minnesota, is known for her installations and bas-reliefs made of cut paper or felt that look something like a cross between papel picado and origami that's been writ large. For Recalcitrant Mimesis, she's created a monumental installation made up of hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of felt that have been attached together and suspended from the walls and the ceiling. Hanging across from this installation are twenty paper bas-reliefs from Miller's "Mimetic Deception" series, which are displayed in wall-mounted Plexiglas showcases. The whole thing is spectacular, and I stopped dead in my tracks when I walked through the gallery's front door and took it all in.
For the installation, Miller has appropriated shapes and colors that could be associated with Still paintings. The shapes, which were hand-cut with electric scissors, are jagged and vertically oriented like Still's chosen forms. The limited palette, including two rosy shades with mustard yellow and white, also recalls Still's work. Ultimately, though, since the Miller installation is three-dimensional, it is completely un-Still-ian, as he was the master of overall flatness. And that's what makes Miller's Recalcitrant Mimesis so good. In no sense — not even broadly speaking — does Miller stray from her established approach, despite having been commissioned to absorb and express all those Still influences.
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The show runs through February 18 at David B. Smith Gallery (1543 A Wazee Street, 303-893-4234, www.davidbsmithgallery.com).