As 2014 comes to a close, we're taking a moment to reflect on what knocked our socks off this year in the Colorado arts world. Got some favorites of your own? Tell us about it in the comments below.
See also: Fifteen arts flashbacks from 2013
She Crossed the Line, January 10-December 28
Early in January, RedLine embarked on a quirky path through five exhibitions exploring the rise of women artists in the contemporary canon. The whole thing tipped off with a retrospective of work by members of Colorado's Front Range Women in the Visual Arts, a group that began forty years ago at the height of the feminist movement, and over the course of the year, explored women's work through the eyes and sensibilities of China's Chen Man, the multidiciplinarian Senga Nengudi, abstractionist Harmony Hammond, and finally, the iconic feminist artist Judy Chicago, who led the way for the others down a controversial road that sparked more than forty years ago. The Chicago show, a 75th-birthday retrospective and fete, ends Sunday.
Open Press 25th Anniversary Exhibit, Month of Printmaking, January 11-April 12
Mark Lunning's Open Press Ltd. has quietly been spreading the gospel of printmaking in Denver for 25 years, which is pretty remarkable in an environment where galleries and studios can come and go in the blink of an eye. During that quarter-century of overseeing pull after pull of etchings, intaglio, monotypes, woodcuts and silkscreens, Lunning has almost single-handedly kept the art and craft of fine-art printmaking alive in the local art community, as a mentor, artist and master printer. The centerpiece of Denver's Month of Printmaking, aka Mo'Print, last spring's massive Open Press exhibition at the McNichols Building served double-duty as a historical document: It was not only beautiful, but it also represented a who's who of artists working in Colorado over the last few decades.
Monkey Town 4, February 27-June 1
We came, we saw, we ate -- and we were blown away: Hometown boy Montgomery Knott returned from a long sojourn in Brooklyn, bringing with him a concept that tickled the senses: Monkey Town 4 combined cutting-edge video art and fine dining and plunked it all down inside a cube lined with tables for an evening the likes of which Denverites had never seen before. It was a little pricey for some, but no one left the cube without an appreciation for the offbeat experience it offered.
Clyfford Still Museum director Dean Sobel must have felt like he'd stuck his hand deep into the cookie jar while curating Modern Masters, a visual primer of modern-art history featuring many iconic works from the well-stocked Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. "People here have not had direct contact with works by the greats of the period -- Miró, Picasso, Warhol," is how Sobel explained the giddy, pleasing shock of seeing some of these paintings and sculptures in person in Denver. "This exhibition, in my view, is as good as it gets. It tells the story of modern art as well as any museum in the nation." Many viewers experienced the same kind of jaw-drop during the show's run.
Stephen Batura: Stream, May 23-June 28.
When painter Stephen Batura, who works from the historical photographs of Charles Lillybridge to frame images of the distant past in contemporary trappings, was given the opportunity by Ironton Gallery to take his oeuvre to the limit, he responded with a continual seventeen-panel pastiche that snaked around the gallery walls like a mural gone wild. "It reinforces the idea that experimentation is a great thing to do at venues where you're not aiming at sales," Batura told us in May. "It takes away the pressures of commerce." There's nothing like giving an epic painter a breather.
30 Mural Projects, 2014 Urban Arts Fund, Summer 2014
This past summer, it seemed as though beautiful, cosmopolitan, street-smart murals were blossoming everywhere as teams of artists began painting walls throughout the city and along the Cherry Creek and Platte River greenways, thanks to funding from the city's Urban Arts Fund graffiti-prevention program. Individual collaborators included everyone from student artists from VSA Arts to international artists like Brazil's Bruno Novelli and Claudio Ethos, with a wide swath of local writers, fine artists and muralists carrying the most weight citywide, transforming walls in Denver into the kind of graphically sophisticated, community-minded concrete-and-brick canvases we're used to seeing in cities around the world.
Rule Gallery Reopens at Hinterland, June 13
When respected gallerist Robin Rule passed away a year ago last December 29, leaving a loyal constituency in the Denver art world to mourn her life and curatorial gifts, the legacy of her longtime gallery could have come to an end. But according to Rule's wishes, the family, with Rule associates Valerie Santerli, Rachel Beitz and Hilary Morris, endeavored to let the name and its vanguard gallery spirit carry on in a space carved out within Hinterland on Walnut Street. The revitalized Rule Gallery reopened this summer with a solo by painter Nathan Abels, followed up by shows from Joseph Coniff and Paul Gillis, and there's no looking back. You can still catch Required Reading, a group show of Rule artists and friends with literary theme, through mid-January.
Chihuly, June 14-November 30
The concept of the summer blockbuster went epic this year at the Denver Botanic Gardens, where the spectacular, organic glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly took over the landscape for an outdoor show that everyone could appreciate, again and again, under changing skies and times of day. As the days grew shorter, an evening element was added, featuring the same sculptures -- twisted spires, boats afloat with iridescent organic shapes, icicle clusters and even a neon-infused tower of medusa hair -- lit up after dark. Best of all, the DBG came out of the experience with a permanent piece to call its own, that visitors to the gardens will enjoy for years to come.
Unbound: Sculpture in the Field, June 26-October 5
Outdoor sculpture also took the spotlight this summer at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, where curator Collin Parson, the son of Colorado sculptor Charles Parson and a sculptor in his own right, took a first step toward what he'd like to see become a permanent sculpture garden at the center. In collaboration with the Museum of Outdoor Arts, Parson put up strollable show of Front Range sculpture showcasing the region's best-known names. Here's hoping the fields around the Arvada Center continue to reap such fruit.
The Temple Revitalizes a Boarded Up Building in Curtis Park
Designed by Frank Edbrooke in 1882, the old Temple Emanuel building at 24th and Curtis streets in Curtis Park has seen many incarnations over the decades, but more recently, it's spent several seasons boarded up and in disrepair. But quietly over the last year or so, the building was purchased by the team of Adam Gordon, Rob Dick and Kathy Crawford and turned, floor by floor, into a thriving community of artist studios and even the Denver Zine Library. More recently, the artist/mentor youth program PlatteForum officially took over part of the space as its new home in the heart of the city, and Processus, a member-driven workshop with community equipment and workspaces, is set to officially open in January after months of fundraising.
Plus Gallery Closes, October 18
Ivar and Karen Zeile's Plus Gallery quickly established itself in various incarnations over the last decade or so as a gallery to be reckoned with, known for fresh work from artists like Susan Meyer, Bill Amundson, Jenny Morgan, Xi Zhang and many others. But that all changed rather suddenly this fall, when the couple announced that the building housing the gallery had been sold and Plus was moving out, lock, stock and barrel, but not before closing it down with a sell-out Jenny Morgan show. Plus isn't dead, exactly, as it still lives online and even occupies a physical space for the time being at the Metropolitan Frame Company at 4th Avenue and Broadway, but we'll just have to wait and see. Plus gave us stimulating shows and openings that were happenings; perhaps there'll be more of that in the future.
Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia, October 30-April 12, 2015,
In October, MCA's Adam Lerner gave us the show of his lifetime. Lerner took a chance by raising the work of Devo founder Mark Mothersbaugh to the museum level, and it's paid off: The result is an exhibition that illuminates both the artist's innate genius and the pop-culture cabinet of curiosities that he's produced. This is a show that's worth revisiting -- it warrants a whole day just to explore the room containing Mothersbaugh's 30,000-plus daily postcard drawings -- and will no doubt fascinate crowds in every one of the five cities it will travel to after leaving MCA in April.
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