This weekend is your last chance to see the groundbreaking Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze at the Denver Art Museum. Keep reading for a capsule review of that show, as well as ten more around town, in the order that they're closing.
Jordan Casteel. It’s almost unknown for the Denver Art Museum to mount a solo show dedicated to an emerging artist just a few years out of graduate school, but that’s exactly what it's done with the striking Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze in the main-floor galleries in the DAM’s Hamilton Building. Seeing these paintings, though, it’s easy to see how Casteel rose so quickly to the top of the national contemporary scene. DAM contemporary curator Rebecca Hart sought out Casteel during her residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem a few years ago, which is when the idea for this show began. Casteel does portraits, typically monumental ones that are way over life-sized; the portrait form is heavy with the weight of injustice, since it was the domain until the last century of the white gentry, and in that way supported white supremacy. Casteel picks up the tainted medium, altering it to her own ends. Photos of the paintings in the museum’s publicity and on social media don’t do them justice, both because of their surprisingly magisterial size and their incredible surfaces: You need to see these for yourself. Through August 18 at the Denver Art Museum,100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-913-0131, denverartmuseum.org. Read the full review of Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze.
Espacio Liminal/Liminal Space. Frank Lucero makes his curatorial debut at the Museo de las Americas with this show of pieces created by Latinx artists active in the area. The theme is a little reductive: Lucero’s brief statement notes simply that “being Latino is not a singular experience.” He gets away with this open-endedness, though, because the show is such a dazzling visual experience, beginning immediately with Jaime Carrejo’s conceptual installations using fence imagery to evoke border issues. Beyond are a set of twenty small abstracts bracketed by a pair of major paintings, all by Frank T. Martinez. The small ones are studies for the large, with Martinez trying out ideas before committing to them. Opposite are a small group of blobby humanoid figures by Jacob Gutierrez. In the main gallery, Lucero has split the wall space between Sierra Montoya Barela and Diego Rodriguez-Warner, who both contribute paintings. Barela employs neo-pop while Rodriguez-Warner riffs on various traditions, collapsing them into his signature style. In the niche are solar prints that look like blueprints and a related video projection by Alejandra Abad; the adjacent gallery holds altered photos by George Perez, who cuts and even tears photos to make his pieces. Through August 24 at the Museo de las Americas, 861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401, museo.org. Read the full review of Espacio Liminal/Liminal Space.
Brian Shields and Jeff Baldus. Michael Warren is showing two solos: Brian Shields: Myths, Lyrics & Landscapes, comprising nature-inspired expressionist paintings, and Jeff Baldus: Scholar Rocks, with naturalistic sculptures and reliefs based on stumps. Shields’s paintings are wildly expressionistic, as though he’d attacked them with brushes laden with brightly colored pigments in an explosion of physicality. Though the paintings appear to be non-objective compositions made up of riotous layers of marks applied next to and over one another, there seems to be some actual imagery — or at least the suggestion of it — in some, and that imagery hints at landscape views. The Baldus sculptures refer to trees, even if they are meant to conjure up Chinese “scholar stones,” which are valued for their contemplative qualities. For many of the sculptures, Baldus has cast rotted tree limbs in bronze, but in a couple, he displays the found wooden shards themselves. The two bas-reliefs are quite different, taking the form of meandering vine-like lines running across two walls; they're done in black rubber tubing with hidden wire armatures to establish their lyrical trajectories. Through August 24 at Michael Warren Contemporary, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-635-6255, michaelwarrencontemporary.com. Read the review of the Brian Shields and Jeff Baldus solos.
Blurring the Line. The sprawling Blurring the Line is divided into three sections: The main galleries on the ground floor highlight objects that refer in some way to residential design, the upper level galleries have wearable art, and the theater gallery is devoted to jewelry. Co-curated by Collin Parson and Kristin Bueb, the principal conceit of the entire endeavor is presenting things that are pointedly unusable despite apparent references to utilitarian objects; although they spring out of functional concerns, they wind up being non-functional. Michael Beitz provides the tour de force, the installation “Lies Bench,” a suite of benches that together spell out the word “Lies” in a loopy cursive. Making another bold statement is Phillip Mann’s skeletal “Relic Chair,” an airy construction made of radiating steel tubes. There actually are some things that can be used as intended, in particular the lighting, including the marvelous and imaginative “Moto Floor Lamp” by Kelton Osborn. The oddball takes on fashion include several with a frisson of danger: “Farthingale,” by Jesse Mathes, and “The Chaperone,” two interactive metal corsets by Ira Sherman, the dean of this kind of thing. Through August 25 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org. Read the review of Blurring the Line.
Serious Play. What the co-curators of Serious Play — Monica Obniski from the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Denver Art Museum's Darrin Alfred — had in mind with this midcentury-modern exhibit is succinctly laid out in the opening vignette, which includes a group of fairly famous works from that time, arranged to underscore their lyricism and to de-emphasize their high-art connections to abstraction and surrealism. There’s the “Coconut Chair” and the “Marshmallow Sofa,” both by George Nelson Associates, and Harry Bertoia’s “Bird Chair and Ottoman” next to a “Womb Chair” by Eero Saarinen. The first two highlight geometric shapes, while the latter two emphasize organic ones, but all have bold sculptural characteristics that radically redefine the standard shapes of chairs, sofas and ottomans. The iconic Charles and Ray Eames are spotlighted in a setting that includes a “Sofa Compact” covered in the famous “Colorado Plaid” fabric designed by Alexander Girard, specially made for Colorado State University. Serious Play holds up to repeated visits, not only because it includes the best designs of the 20th century, but because much of it still checks all the boxes in the 21st. Through August 25 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-913-0131, denverartmuseum.org. Read the full review of Serious Play.
Judith Cohn. The inaugural exhibit for Urban Mud is Judith Cohn: The Denver Years, a limited retrospective dedicated to an artist who used to work and show here. When Cohn came to Denver in the early ’90s, she was already an accomplished ceramics artist with a sterling academic career, including stops at Cranbrook and Alfred. Although her stylistic course was already set, Cohn’s work fit right into the ceramics scene here. Her handling of painted decorations in glazes had a close resonance with the contemporaneous work of the late Betty Woodman, and her formal ideas were not unlike those of Martha Daniels, in particular the way that both artists used the malleability of clay to employ it as an expressive medium, free from the constraints of the wheel. The works in this show are really impressive, starting with a large installation of stiles from her “Trees” series. Cohn comes out of the vessel tradition, the mainstream in ceramics, but she uses its concepts to make things other than vessels, like these stacked enclosed volumes that Cohn built and then decorated with abstract compositions. Through August 30 at Urban Mud, 530 Santa Fe Drive, 720-271-9601, urban-mud.com. Read the review of Judith Cohn: The Denver Years.
Enchanted Garden. Walker Fine Art is up front about the theme of this sprawling group show with eight artists, most of them part of Colorado's art scene. Enchanted Garden opens with conceptual pieces by Eileen Richardson, many of which incorporate twigs in some way. The centerpiece is “Echoscope #2,” an enormous kaleidoscope in the form of a log-like cylinder lined with angled mirrors and wrapped in willow twigs. Other standouts include enigmatic paintings by Don Quade. Although they are signature Quades, in which he lays in a color field and then accents it with small elements, they are somewhat simpler and less cluttered than usual. Some of these tiny pictographs are little more than loops, while others take the form of recognizable things, including silhouettes of blossoms. Quade’s palette tends toward deep and saturated colors but is typically delivered as dusty, giving the paintings an antiquarian quality. Most of the other artists in Enchanted Garden embrace flowers in some way, but a major component of the show is decidedly non-floral: monumental floor sculptures by Norman Epp that unify the whole thing. Through August 31 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955, walkerfineart.com. Read the review of Enchanted Garden.
Clark Richert in Hyperspace. Dedicating major shows to significant Colorado artists is precisely why MCA Denver was founded. This magnificent retrospective devoted to Clark Richert and curated by MCA assistant curator Zoe Larkins fills all of the galleries on the main and second floors of the museum, walking viewers from the earliest Richerts done in the 1960s to pieces created in the last few years. Richert is the personification of the counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s, which flourished in Colorado. He was one of the founders of Drop City in 1965, the short-lived though renowned artist community; a few years later, he helped establish another artist collective, Criss-Cross, which comprised fellow artists also exploring geometric abstraction. This Richert origin story is laid out on the main level. A large second-floor gallery showcases his paintings of the late ’80s and early ’90s, which capture interior spaces, employing realism to do so. But by the late 1990s, and up to the present, Richert's compositions had gone non-objective again, picking up on the threads of his Criss-Cross days, but more loosely. Through September 1, at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, mcadenver.org. Read the full review of Clark Richert in Hyperspace.
Human|Nature: Figures From the Craig Ponzio Sculpture Collection. Craig Ponzio is a wealthy businessman with a taste for art collecting and philanthropy. Touring his private sculpture garden outside of Evergreen, Denver Botanic Gardens curator Lisa Eldred came up with the idea of selecting only figural works (Ponzio has abstracts, too) for a change-of-pace DBG sculpture exhibit. The biggest name in the show is Auguste Rodin, though the piece itself, “La Grande Muse de Whistler,” is just a study. One of Rodin’s protégés, Émile-Antoine Bourdelle, is represented by “La Grande Pénélope, an impressive monumental piece of the mythological figure in a flowing gown. There’s a contingent of modernists, a couple of them renowned, like Jacques Lipchitz. A trio of pieces are thoroughly abstract, only barely suggesting the figure: the modest Beverly Pepper, heraldic stiles by Squire Broel, and Peter Ambrose’s geometric “The Shadow of a Woman." Among the few pieces that could be called conceptual is a sculptural group, Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir’s “Lights." Through September 15 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, 720-865-3500, botanicgardens.org. Read the full review of Human|Nature.
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Clark Richert: Pattern and Dimensions. The way in which Clark Richert has been exploring the same ideas for nearly sixty years but coming at them from different directions is the thrust of this show at BMoCA. It was curated by Cortney Lane Stell, director and chief curator of nomadic museum Black Cube, who is guest-starring at BMoCA. Stell conceived of the show as a set of separate presentations exploring various aspects of Richert’s oeuvre, and even restaged a couple of the “droppings,” for which Drop City was named, done by Richert with Gene Bernofsky before they came to Colorado in the early ’60s. The main gallery’s walls are lined with paintings of various dates, some from as early as the 1970s and ’80s, but dominated by 21st-century examples, which are airy linear patterns based on digital studies. Also included are what Stell calls “Pictorial Investigations,” representational views of Drop City and A.R.E.A., Richert's new concept for an artist community. On one side of the east gallery are some unexpected abstract-expressionist works that Richert did in the early 1960s, and on the other side, a thoughtful presentation on Drop City. Through September 15 at BMoCA, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 303-443-2122, bmoca.org. Read the full review of Clark Richert: Pattern and Dimensions.
Eyes on Jonathan Saiz. For his Denver Art Museum solo, Jonathan Saiz created 10,000 individual works brought together into a stunning installation. Saiz has been using small plastic boxes as his principal material for a long time, employing them to enclose paintings, reliefs, collages and other mediums carried out in miniature, and even etching the boxes themselves. Realizing that the walls of the Logan Gallery would not be able to hold the weight of the collected boxes, Saiz decided to have a circular wall built, using the diameter of the columns from Karnak as his guide. The theme of the show is an ideal future, and he called the column installation “#WhatisUtopia,” with the idea that he'd create images evocative of utopian visions, whatever that might mean. But his visions are open-ended and meant to be interpreted by viewers. As shown by the hashtag in the title, Saiz is a master of social media, and he asked his many Instagram followers to send him materials. The performative aspects of the piece — both the donated materials and the fact that Saiz intends to give away the finished pieces at the end of the show — are essential to his aesthetic philosophy. Through November 17 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-913-0131, denverartmuseum.org. Read the full review of Eyes on Jonathan Saiz.