This weekend is your last chance to see several exhibits around town, and time is also running short on Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature. Keep reading for a capsule review of that Denver Art Museum blockbuster, as well as eight more shows around town, in the order that they're closing.
Michael Hedges, Sue Oehme and Patricia Aaron. The works in one of three solos at Space Gallery, Michael Hedges/The Lost Highway, are all of a piece, with wide brush marks and bold colors. Hedges describes his process as being based on solving color problems through the arrangement of forms; because of this, he works on as many as ten canvases at once so that he can explore the problems in different ways through separate paintings. The second abstract solo, Sue Oehme/The Sum of Our Parts, is given over to one of Colorado’s top printmakers. For this show, Oehme deconstructs her process, combining her prints with the materials she used to create them, taking the found ephemera and repurposing them to create wall pieces, including the gorgeous title piece, “The Sum of Our Parts.” The last of the solos, Patricia Aaron/Raw and Real, comprises luscious encaustic paintings by another prominent Colorado artist. Though all three artists showing here favor densely composed compositions, Aaron pushes it further with her atmospheric, all-over abstractions. Extended through January 18 at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive, 303-993-3321, spacegallery.org. Read the full review of the three Space solos.
Serra, Voisine, Westfall and Petley & Velasquez. Taking over the main space at Robischon is the stunningly austere Richard Serra, comprising the famous artist’s fanatically simple prints that nonetheless perfectly convey his obsession with the idea of monumentality expressed through weight, the signature move of his well-known oeuvre. After the quasi-religious experience of the very dark Serra solo, the eye-popping colors that link the other Robischon shows are a welcome respite. In the adjacent galleries, Don Voisine features the artist's geometric and architectonic abstractions. A third solo,Stephen Westfall, includes large-ish paintings that deconstruct and reconstruct harlequin patterns. The patterns have only been partially laid out, and the repeated shapes don’t quite come together the way they should, with gaps and misses here and there; these purposeful glitches in his works force the viewer to mentally complete and correct the patterns. As something of a chaser to these elegant solos, there's a small duet, Kate Petley & Derrick Velasquez. Both are well-known Colorado artists, and Petley’s paintings and Velasquez’s bas-reliefs individually relate to the overriding theme. Through January 18 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, robischongallery.com. Read the full review of the current Robischon shows.
Annual Member Show. Spark, the city’s oldest co-op, is crammed to the rafters with work in the Annual Member Show. As is typical of mashups mixing the different sensibilities of various members, the show winds up being more like a sampler than a coherent group exhibit, though it does reveal how strong Spark's membership is currently. A lot of things are great, both by veteran Sparkers and brand-new members. The corner installation by Annalee Schorr, in painted lines on clear plastic acrylic sheets, is a reminder that she's one of the Colorado artists who's been interested in pattern painting for decades. Like Schorr, many other Spark members are prominent abstract painters, including Sue Simon, Mark Brasuell, Madeleine Dodge and Bill Ballas. There are also some fine works on paper here, notably those by Janice McDonald, Michaele Keyes and Keith Howard; sculptors Leo Franco and Mary Mackey also riff on classic modernism. Newish member Diego Dominguez contributes one of the standouts, a marvelous digitally manipulated photo of a floating house. And there’s much more to see in this jam-packed exhibit. Though January 19 at Spark Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200, sparkgallery.com. Read the full review of the Annual Member Show.
Touched/Marie EvB Gibbons. After ceramics artist Marie EvB Gibbons died suddenly last fall, a cadre of her artist friends, along with Gibbons’s children, decided to mount a memorial exhibit in her honor. Jonathan Kaplan stepped up and volunteered the use of his Plinth Gallery, which specializes in ceramics. The result of their combined efforts is the densely packed Touched/Marie EvB. Gibbons, on view now at Plinth. Back in the 1990s, Gibbons began working with both hand-building and slip-casting methods to create her distinctive non-functional sculptures. The distinction between sculpture, which she made, and vessels, which she didn’t, led Gibbons to embrace post-fired finishes. These were typically done in acrylic paint, but also in a range of materials including washes, inks, waxes, resins and more, which she applied after the pieces were bisque-fired. Developing her own aesthetic, characterized by a decidedly goth attitude along with more than a little haunted-house surrealism, Gibbons created works that suggest a world that’s located somewhere between the mood of the carnival and that of enigmatic dreams. This is especially the case with her creepy baby-doll figures. Through January 25 at Plinth Gallery, 3520 Brighton Boulevard, 303-295-0717, plinthgallery.com. Read the full review of Touched: Marie EvB Gibbons.
Many Voices, One Message. One of the city’s newest co-ops, D’art Gallery, was founded this past year by artist Kat Payge. As often happens when a co-op first comes together, D’art has had some growing pains, and while some members have already dropped out, others have come on board. This is why having the member show Many Voices, One Message just a few months after the last member show makes sense. There are some knockout ceramics by Vicky Smith, organic abstractions made through stacking components that suggest alien plant forms. Around the corner is another ceramic artist, Jean Smith, whose piece is an assemblage of separate, tile-like wall hangings. D'art's members include many abstract artists, and the standouts in this show include abstractions by Susan M. Gibbons that are simultaneously linear and soft-focused. The encaustic and silkscreen prints on paper by Ashton Lacy Jones have a whiff of Rauschenberg; they're outstanding. Suzanne Frazier, Tara Kelley-Cruz, Lydia Riegle and many others also contribute pieces. Through January 26 at D’art Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-486-7735, dartgallery.org. Read the full review of Many Voices, One Message.
Joel Swanson and Cody Hudson. David B. Smith Gallery is now showing Joel Swanson/Eight-and-a-Half-by-Eleven, with work by a highly regarded Colorado artist who creates elegant objects to illustrate his ideas. The show’s odd title refers to the size of a standard sheet of paper; paper and its extensions are the source of Joel Swanson's inspiration here. At the start of the solo is a series of five flat wall panels in black aluminum. The weird shapes follow the dimensions determined by the different profiles of flattened crayon boxes, which held between 16 and 96 crayons (those with the bigger boxes were always the envy of others). The largest of the paper-related pieces is the installation in which one wall is covered in a digital print on vinyl depicting blank, wide-rule notebook paper, while the other wall has a print of standard rule; the corner where they come together suggests the passage from childhood to teenager. In the project space, Cody Hudson/I Came Home includes paintings and sculptures that are abstracted depictions of plants. Chicago artist Hudson reduces the botanical subjects down to simple, almost tentatively drawn shapes, then conventionalizes them for his sculptures. Extended (by appointment) through January 29 at David B. Smith Gallery, 1543 #A Wazee Street, 303-893-4234, davidbsmithgallery.com. Read the full review of the two shows at David B. Smith Gallery.
Claude Monet. The Denver Art Museum is hosting the over-the-top solo Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature, which includes 120 works spanning Monet’s entire working life, if not his entire oeuvre. Instead, as indicated by its title, this show focuses almost exclusively on his landscapes, seascapes and familiar garden views. Monet is the impressionist’s impressionist, who would paint the same subject over and over again at different times of day, recording the transitory experience of natural light. The culmination of the show are the depictions of Monet's ambitious, Japanese-style gardens in Giverny. The last of the garden paintings, those from his renowned “Water-Lily” series, are virtually pure abstractions, anticipating action painting and automatism. Through February 2 at the Denver Art Museum,100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, denverartmuseum.org. Read the full review of Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature.
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Francesca Woodman. The main attraction at MCA Denver is Francesca Woodman: Portrait of a Reputation, curated by Nora Burnett Abrams, the museum's new director. It examines the work of a young photographer active in the 1970s who became internationally famous years after she'd tragically died by suicide in 1981, at the age of 22. Woodman’s imagery has been so influential with other artists over the past thirty years that it’s a little hard to recognize today just how revolutionary her concepts, narratives and aesthetic were when she created these photos. The classic Woodman is a self-portrait, and she's nude or semi-nude in the most striking and sometimes startling of these. They're anything but cheesecake shots, with Woodman striking a blow against the idea of the eroticized male gaze. Some of these self-portraits, such as those in which she’s entwined in roots or poses in a cemetery, have the whiff of art history, classicism and surrealism, respectively. Others, like the ones in which she's seated with her legs spread, holding objects including a mirror, a mask and a grapefruit between them, could be seen as almost funny, if it weren't for all that pathos. Through April 5 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, mcadenver.org. Read the full review of Francesca Woodman: Portrait of a Reputation.
Stacey Steers. On the lower level of MCA Denver is Stacey Steers: Edge of Alchemy, a small show curated by Zoe Larkins. Stacey Steers is a legendary animation filmmaker and artist who lives in Boulder, and whose works have been a hit not just at museums, but also at film festivals. Edge of Alchemy, which is being projected here, is the last film in a trilogy of works. Though the final film is a digital copy, the imagery has been done the old-fashioned way, shot frame by frame. The result is a compilation of individual collages Steers makes using appropriated silent film images of Mary Pickford and Janet Gaynor, then recasting them for her film as wizards attempting to create life in a fanciful lab. She dresses them up with found antique imagery of leaves and flowers, and furnishes their space with depictions of archaic scientific instruments. The movement in the film and the way images morph create a hypnotic effect. Supplementing the film are a small selection of very steampunk-looking pseudo-optical devices through which a brief clip of the film may be viewed using an integral glass lens. Through April 5 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, mcadenver.org. Read the full review of Stacey Steers: Edge of Alchemy.