Like most local gallery-goers, you're probably going to find yourself fighting the crowds at the Denver Art Museum to see El Greco to Picasso from the Phillips Collection at some point during the coming weeks. All well and good: We don't always have such a wonderful opportunity to gaze upon massed works by Goya, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, Kandinsky and the rest of that magnificent show. But while you're there, take the time to appreciate the little things, too. A pair of small but interesting exhibits will open today on the museum's upper floors, offering fascinating counterpoints to all that famous art in your face on the main level. One of the two, Full Frontal: Contemporary Asian Artists from the Logan Collection, on display through next May on the fifth floor, features only ten paintings and photographs, but they travel a world away from the Phillips blockbuster in scope. These are in-your-face, too, but for different reasons. A straightforwardly personal and political charge runs through them all, and though some include nude figures, it's the attitude of the works that is "full frontal," not necessarily the visuals. Providing something of a pocket guide to changing cultural viewpoints and ethics in the Far East, these examples -- including photos of performance artist and Beijing expatriate Zhang Huan at work, Su-en Wong's uncompromising The Boxer and mainland Chinese pop artist Yu Youhan's Mao Decorated -- serve as a road map of Asia's future.
On the seventh floor, another world unfolds, in postcard scale, in A Family: Portraits by Jim Torok, on view through March. The 23 five-by-four-inch oils in mug-shot poses, depicting all the living generations of a Denver-based family that commissioned the series, radiate with astonishingly real incandescence, revealing the people behind the pictures without pretense. Come to think of it, it's a refreshing change of pace from all the hullabaloo downstairs.
The DAM is at 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway; call 720-865-5000 or log on to www.denverartmuseum.org. -- Susan Froyd
Colorado filmmaker Davis G. Coombe knows his local music. For more than six years, the former garage rocker filmed Denver bands the Czars, Orbit Service and Rainbow Sugar as they ripped through the hit-and-miss world of the underground-music scene in pursuit of fame and fortune. The result is a film Coombe calls The Tornado Dream. "It's being on a mission with three other people," he says. "It's that camaraderie this film is about." The documentary, shown in conjunction with the 2003 Starz Denver International Film Festival, screens at 7:30 tonight at the Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway, Englewood. The Czars and Orbit Service will perform live after the presentation. "This is about the trials and tribulations of where a band comes from," explains Coombe. "The Tornado Dream is a story of real people and the state of the modern music scene." Tickets, $10, are available at the door or through www.nipp.com. Rock on! -- Kity Ironton
Horror Comes to Life
Deadly deceptions and dark nights will be dramatized in Macabre: A Night of Gothic Horror. Deceased authors Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe -- played by Kris Hipps and Tom Giles -- will host, as members of the Paper Cat Theatre Company act out five goosebump-inducing short stories: "The Monkey's Paw," "The Masque of the Red Death," "Rappaccini's Daughter," "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Spectre Bridegroom."
"We wanted to avoid the slasher, Friday the 13th Halloween fare and do more classic gothic tales," says Hipps, who is also directing "Rap-paccini's Daughter." "So we all picked our favorite horror story."
Macabre will be performed at The Other Side Arts, 1644 Platte Street, at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow, and again next Friday and Saturday; admission is $10. Call 720-217-2206 or visit www.papercat.org for details. -- Julie Dunn
Local artist shows the stuff that sails through Kill Bill
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At one point in Quentin Tarantino's new movie, Kill Bill: Volume 1, Uma Thurman and Vivica A. Fox get into a catfight, and the plates -- actually a series of plates commemorating African-Americans in U.S. military history -- start flying. Crash! Bang! Crunch. What you might not know is that those plates have a Denver connection: Local artist Rod Grier (yes, the same East High graduate whose knockout sister Pam knocked 'em out in Tarantino's Jackie Brown) was the production's artist-on-the-wall, creating the plates and also contributing five paintings that decorate Fox's fictional house in the film. Grier gave Tarantino and some of Pam's Jackie co-stars paintings in 1997 as gifts, and one ended up with Tarantino's mother, who liked the work enough to order up some more. The rest is history.
Now here's your chance to see -- and even buy -- some of those works, including the original hand-painted Kill Bill plates commissioned by Tarantino (the ones destroyed in the flick were props). They go on display today at 825 Art and Framing, 825 Santa Fe Drive; the show continues through November 8. Meet Grier this evening at a reception from 6 to 9 p.m.; a portion of tonight's proceeds will benefit the Denver Rescue Mission. For information, call 303-534-1979 or log on to www.825art.com-- Susan Froyd
Let's Be Franken
Satirist in Denver to scatter some Lies
In regard to his fabled nemesis, comedian and author Al Franken, conservative TV talker Bill O'Reilly has written, "It is simply a sorry joke to see a political activist like Al Franken labeled a satirist by the New York Times. Attempting to smear and destroy the reputations of those with whom you politically disagree is not satire." But as half the world now knows, O'Reilly's just gnawing on sour grapes, stomping his feet and holding his breath until he turns blue because Franken nailed him publicly, noting -- with factual backup -- that O'Reilly (sans factual backup) claimed to have won a Peabody Award for his journalistic work on Inside Edition. And anyway, Franken's newest book, Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them...A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, which contains 350-plus pages of just the kind of satire O'Reilly seeks to discredit, is king of the current bestseller lists, implying that someone out there disagrees with the incensed right-winger. You decide: The very funny Franken will discuss and sign Lies tonight, at 7:30 p.m. at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th Street; for details, call 303-436-1070 or log on to www.tatteredcover.com. -- Susan Froyd