One week, one blank, date-stamped canvas and an urban landscape with distinct boundaries: Those were the limitations given to artists who participated in Paint Our Town: Old, New, Now!, a contest and exhibit opening today at the Art Students League of Denver, 200 Grant Street. Based on the French small-town tradition of holding summer "Paint Our Town" competitions and street festivals, which ASL faculty members encountered in their travels, the show (also a unique art competition with cash awards) is intended to begin a new custom at the maverick art school. ASL is known both for its artist-taught classes and its anything-goes Summer Art Market, a June showplace for art of every ilk. How does a tradition get started? It helps to reach out, says ASL director Leona Lazar.
The league, she explains, partnered with galleries all over town -- mainstream, independent, alternative, city- or school-funded art centers and more -- to get the word out to artists about the competition. Then they set down the rules: Between May 15 and 21, each entrant was sent to an area bounded by I-25, Speer Boulevard, Logan Street and Park Avenue, to create a single, city-inspired work.
"Many of the artists were very nervous about the idea of having only one canvas," Lazar says, but they were up for the challenge. Nearly 150 folks answered the call, and though the finished works were still trickling in over the Memorial Day weekend, even those few pieces were distinguished by their endless points of view.
How do artists see the heart of our city? With a varied lens, to be sure: Early arrivals for hanging ranged from a wavy, Red Grooms-like LoDo scene with an RTD bus and Union Station in the background to a canvas of mud-colored abstract skyscrapers. Techniques ran the gamut from sophisticated to simple; images included lots of landmark buildings, street scenes and downtown people, as well as more unusual views and rooftop angles.
Once the works are collected, jurors Jerry Gilmore of the Arvada Center and Mark Masuoka of Carson-Masuoka Gallery -- two high-profile local curators whom Lazar characterizes as unbiased in their approach to art styles -- will go through the entries and make award decisions. Tonight from 5:30 to 8, those announcements will be made and the prizes handed out. The show continues at ASL through July 11 before moving to the Tattered Cover LoDo later in July. For information, call 303-778-6990 or log on to www.asld.org. -- Susan Froyd
T-shirts get love
T-shirts are as American as mom and apple pie or the First Amendment and freedom of expression. Brightly technicolored, boldly simple or even strange and shocking -- the typical tee is a basic illustration of freedom of speech functioning in fiber. Core New Art Space, 2045 Larimer Street, will examine the limits and fundamental role of the basic shirt model with The Beloved T-Shirt Show. The nationally juried exhibition was open to artists across the country who wanted to pay creative homage to the wardrobe essential, with the added challenge of making the shirts speak. Expect to be engaged by entries from painters, screen printers, assemblage artists and even sculptors.
"Core is a co-op gallery that strives to give the general artistic public a chance to display their work," says David Griffin, a Core co-op member who has also entered a shirt-embedded painting. "It's a fairly generic theme and wide open. Everybody wears T-shirts."
Griffin also shares in the country's cultural affection for and pride in the national cotton staple. "I have several beloved T-shirts. I just can't seem to throw them away until they are falling off my body."
The opening reception will run from 7 to 10 tonight; the show hangs through June 22. Entry is free. For more information, go to www.corenewartspace.com or call 303-297-8428. -- Kity Ironton
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If the art world covers more of a spectrum now than ever before, Isaac Julien is its vanguard: A film documentarian, photographer, performance artist, cultural critic, historian and thinker, the London-born Harvard professor delivers clear messages in unorthodox ways. When Julien's three-screen color-video projection, Baltimore, premieres tonight at the Aspen Art Museum, 590 North Mill Stree in Aspen, don't expect a stolid wall of paintings. Baltimore, a visual commentary nearly twelve minutes long, will continuously fill a trio of eleven-by-fifteen-foot white screens in AAM's lower gallery (where the walls have been painted away into a midnight-blue backdrop) through July 27. It stars '70s blaxploitation film pioneer Melvin Van Peebles, who is pursued by a cyborg character through Baltimore's traditionally oriented Walters Art Museum, as well as a lifeless cast of faces from that city's Great Blacks in Wax Museum.
"He doesn't fit in," says AAM director Dean Sobel of Julien's place in the contemporary-art pantheon. "He's emblematic of the postmodern art world, where boundaries, approaches and styles all blur together. He really is characteristic of the direction in which the entire art world is moving." For information on the show, call 1-970-925-8050 or log on to www. aspenartmuseum.org. -- Susan Froyd
Junk turns to art in Jang's hands
Deborah Jang's sculpture "Go Fish" is a sly, contradictory visual joke: It's a fish made out of a stop sign. But the welded metalwork is more than a play on words; it makes you stop to look. Jang is becoming known locally for her menagerie of creatures pieced together from flotsam and jetsam: scraped and rusty jigsaw dogs and cows that rise, phoenix-style, from junkyard scraps collected by the artist. An exhibit of her works opens tonight from 6 to 8 at KW Studio/Gallery, 282 Delaware Street. Why junk? For one thing, Jang notes, "junk is plentiful." First she collects it, a pastime that takes her all over the state, perusing alleys, roadways and salvage yards (some of her faves: Star Steel Supply in Alamosa and Martin's Salvage in Loveland). Then she stares at the pile of refuse she's collected. "Sometimes the junk takes its own form. Other times, I start out with some kind of intentional result." Either way, the outcomes are stunning, too artful to be labeled merely "fun." And they're useful. "In a twisted way," Jang says, "I feel like I'm doing my own little eco-thing." Jang's show continues through July 20. -- Susan Froyd