Get out of the heat and into some cool art this weekend. This is your last chance to see Pink Progression, the show at Metro State's Center for Visual Art that was inspired by the Women's March; it's filled with message art that's actually art. Keep reading for a capsule review of that show, as well as eight more around town.
Pink Progression. Colorado artist Anna Kaye came up with the idea of mounting art shows to demonstrate solidarity with the women’s protest marches sparked by the election of Donald Trump. She began by asking artists she thought would be interested in the project, and those artists in turn asked others (as with the marches, most of the participants were women, but some men joined in). Even dealing with the inevitable free-associational quality of submissions of this sort, the CVA’s Cecily Cullen was able to give shape to the shapeless mass. Though there are some political pieces, the show does not read like a critique of Trump, filled with the unflattering caricatures you might expect, but instead is simply a celebration of women artists doing the kind of signature things they individually do or, in a few cases, creating unexpected new kinds of work. Even the political pieces are more metaphorical than strident. Standouts include works by the artist team of Rachael Delaney and Sandy Lane, along with those by Frankie Toan, Trine Bumiller, Ania Gola-Kumor, Julie Rymer Brucker, Sue Simon, Viviane Le Courtois, Jennifer Pettus, Chinn Wang, Steven Frost and many, many, more. Through August 18 at MSUD Center for Visual Art, 965 Santa Fe Drive, 303-294-5207, msudenver.edu/cva. Read the full review of Pink Progression.
Carlene Frances. In the second-floor galleries at K Contemporary, the featured solo is Carlene Frances: Seijaku. As indicated by the title, Frances is concerned with Eastern aesthetics and philosophy; the Japanese word seijaku refers to a sense of tranquility in the midst of chaos, and this ethos is the theme of these paintings. Though they are lyrical, and comprise expertly blended grounds over which are freely drawn circles and bars, they are meant by Frances to represent the troublesome political reality we find ourselves in right now. Looking at these serene paintings, it’s hard to believe they are meant as a kind of resistance, but then again, seijaku suggests a peaceful escape from the chaos. Frances mentions the Internet’s role in making things worse by conveying hate speech and fake news and attempts to counter this with the Seijaku paintings, basing their forms on the binary computer code of zeroes and ones in order to tame them. In her paintings, the zeroes have become circles and the ones serve as bars, with the two elements freely associated across the surfaces of the paintings. Through August 25 at K Contemporary, 1412 Wazee Street, 303-590-9800, kcontemporaryart.com. Read the full review of Carlene Frances: Seijaku.
In Sight On Site. Though a lot of the street murals being done right now are pretty bad, there are some great murals among them...and they sparked Collin Parson’s quest to invite talented local artists to paint murals to hang inside all three of the Arvada Center’s galleries. The impressive In Sight On Site is beautifully laid out, with individual murals on their own specific walls so that the show is not too tightly installed, yet the vista views in which you can see several murals at the same time are unrelentingly impressive. The murals fall into three clearly articulated categories. First are the abstractions, many of which feature patterns. Second are the figurations, ranging from photorealist to updated versions of the Chicano mural movement from the ’60s and ’70s. Finally, there are the storybook 420-friendly fantasy-style murals. Parson has stacked the deck for his show, so it doesn’t directly reflect the stylistic ratio of the outdoor murals where fantasy stuff predominates —and that’s a good thing. Through August 26 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org. Read the full review of In Sight On Site.
Teresa Booth Brown, Elizabeth Ferrill, Artists From the Roaring Fork Valley. The center of Colorado's art scene is Denver, but other parts of the state have important arts communities, particularly Aspen. Michael Warren Contemporary has tapped into this rich vein of aesthetic gold with two solos and a group show, all comprising work by artists from that area. Teresa Booth Brown takes over the front spaces, and is clearly the star attraction. At first glance, Brown's paintings are constructivist, made up of emphatic blocks of color set in elegant arrangements. But as you look closely, her image vocabulary gets much messier, with recognizable things emerging faintly from beneath the oil-painted surfaces, building her formalist paintings on top of anti-formalist collages. The group show, Artists From the Roaring Fork Valley, is installed in the connecting space and includes pieces by Robert Brinker, Andrew Roberts-Gray, Stanley Bell and several others. Finally, the second solo, Elizabeth Ferrill, with some strange silkscreen prints done on window screens, fills the back gallery. Ferrill hand-cuts the silkscreen film into precisionist renditions of mundane if architectonic subjects. Through September 1 at Michael Warren Contemporary, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-635-6255, michaelwarrencontemporary.com. Read the full review of the Michael Warren Contemporary shows.
Danae Falliers and Brenda Biondo. Goodwin Fine Art is hosting a pair of solos, both devoted to artists using photography. In the north half, Danae Falliers/Re:Union is devoted to photos about the Western landscape, but as seen through the filter of design and color theory. Falliers calls her process “composite-based,” because she may blend as many as eight images to produce a piece. These separate images may be taken at the same place, but they also may be depictions of other places; some of the base photos are straightforward shots, while others have been monkeyed with through the camera’s settings. And regardless of their original appearance, all have been manipulated in the computer. In the south half, Brenda Biondo/Moving Pictures shows a photographer using a multi-step process to create pieces depicting the sky. For the works in her “Paper Skies” series, Biondo begins by taking a photo of the sky, then alters the printed photo by cutting or bending it. Taking the altered photo of the sky, Biondo holds it in front of the actual sky, moving it as she clicks the shutter. In this way, the initial photo depicting the sky merges with the shot of the actual sky. Through September 8 at Goodwin Fine Art, 1255 Delaware Street, 303-573-1255, goodwinfineart.com. Read the full review of the Goodwin Fine Art shows.
A Conscious Surrender. This strong group show at Walker Fine Art displays the recent efforts of a sculptor and five painters, each exploring expressionist abstraction. David Mazza’s latest sculptures still have his signature style but take a somewhat different approach, incorporating such geometric solids as beefy rectangles. Anna Charney contributes “Orbital Oscillation,” which looks like a remote entry into the Arvada Center’s mural show, though it’s climbing Walker’s two-story wall; she paints morphing forms out of complex patterns of repeated shapes that move in and out of one another. Patterns also anchor paintings by Deidre Adams that have layers of dense markings and scribbles, webs of them; to some extent, the marks resemble prehistoric glyphs being used to make all-over abstractions. In a separate space, atmospheric paintings by Carol Browning perfectly complement vaporous ones by Sara Pittman. The last of the painters, Ben Strawn, shows strong works in which big shapes of bright colors come together like loose jigsaw puzzles. Through September 8 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955, walkerfineart.com. Read the review of A Conscious Surrender.
Mel Strawn. Artist Mel Strawn is the subject of an intimate solo, Mel Strawn: Alternatives, at the Sandra Phillips Gallery. An important figure in the history of contemporary art in Colorado, he came here in the 1960s to become the head of the art department at the University of Denver, succeeding Vance Kirkland. Strawn stayed at DU into the 1980s and, after leaving the state for a time, he and his wife, Bernice Strawn, also an artist, settled in Salida. The show is not a retrospective, since the gallery is too small for one, but it does showcase pieces from several periods. Among the earlier standouts are two pattern paintings, “Geos,” from the 1970s, and “Negentropy,” from the 1980s. Interestingly, Colorado was a center for pattern painting at that time; while Strawn was part of a scene, his work differed from that of the rest of the pack, both because he stacks patterns and because he did not use masking, resulting in wavering edges instead of hard ones. Another noteworthy painting is the enormous horizontal abstraction “Red Shift,” in which broad reddish and gray brushstrokes radiate from various points. In recent years, the artist, who is nearly ninety, has been making new works in the form of solar prints. Through September 8 at Sandra Phillips Gallery, 47 West 11th Avenue, 303-931-2991, thesandraphillipsgallery.com. Read the review of Mel Strawn: Alternatives.
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New Territory. The title of New Territory: Landscape Photography Today is somewhat misleading, since not everything included takes the form of photos. New Territory also includes photo-based work, in which photography is merely a component, and pieces that may be only vaguely associated with photography. But the first part of the title is correct, because all the works are contemporary evocations of the natural environment, which break into three basic types. Some are musings on neo-pictorialism, in which the photos take a page from painting in different ways but typically soften the forms. Then there’s a neo-new topographic interlude. And throughout, conceptual photos resemble abstractions. The show was curated by Eric Paddock, who's interested in highlighting unusual techniques here. The reason? Since everyone has a cell phone, pretty much everyone is now a photographer, so Paddock only included pieces that were clearly separate from that craze. Through September 16 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-913-0131, denverartmuseum.org. Read the review of New Territory: Landscape Photography Today.
Mike Whiting. This summer’s sculpture show at the Denver Botanic Gardens is Pixelated: Sculpture by Mike Whiting. The DBG’s Jen Tobias chose more than a dozen of the artist’s signature boxy sculptures, representing various recognizable things including objects, animals, birds and people; the hard edges of his forms beautifully contrast with the soft edges of the plantings at the gardens. Whiting is interested in both conventionalizing and reducing his subjects by employing obsolete 8-bit digital technology used for early video games like Pac-Man. To start, Whiting takes the pixels on the screen, employing them as building blocks to “construct” the outlines of the forms; the digital sketches are then translated into sculptures made from thick plates of steel formed into boxes. The outlines of these boxes are their chief defining feature. Whiting conceives of the flat sides of the sculptures as canvases, which he covers in atmospheric abstract paintings in Easter egg colors. According to Whiting, these dull and mottled surfaces are meant to evoke the sun-faded and scratched paint jobs of old pickup trucks. Through September 23 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, 720-865-3500, botanicgardens.org. Read the full review of Pixelated.