Art Reviews of Denver Exhibits to See | Westword

Art Review

Reviewed: Shows You Can See Now (or Read About)

Some galleries are open by appointment.
Untitled Heidi Jung work on paper at Michael Warren Contemporary.
Untitled Heidi Jung work on paper at Michael Warren Contemporary. Robert Delaney
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While every museum in town is closed, a few galleries are staying open for now, although some only by appointment. And many arts institutions are offering virtual tours. Keep reading for an update on what's on walls around town...and whether you'll be able to see it.

Matthew Larson's "White and Red" (left) and "Red and White."
Courtesy of Rule Gallery
Red @ Rule. The idea of presenting a show based on "red" dates back nearly twenty years ago, to the days when Rule Gallery was on Broadway and the late Robin Rule was the gallery director. At the time, paintings or prints with red in them were considered unsellable, and Rule was intent on proving that maxim wrong. Times have changed: Valerie Santerli and Rachel Bietz are now at the helm of Rule Gallery, there's no stigma attached to the color red. If anything, it’s red-hot. The show starts with a great pair of works by Matthew Larson that are not just red, but Valentine-heart red. They're flowing op patterns, à la Bridget Riley, one in red on white, the other in white on red. Goran Vejvoda communicates the theme by using the word “red” in a triptych of found and altered images of women. Jim Johnson's work also features words, but that's not surprising, since he’s one of the best-known text-based artists in the region. For “I Love You More,” Johnson has run charcoal and pastel across words written in cursive that resist the chalks, revealing the paper behind. Phil Bender’s signature is the use of found objects, here a red tartan boot bag and a pair of art books that combine in a wall relief. Through March 28 at Rule Gallery, 808 Santa Fe Drive, 303-800-6776, Read the full review of Red @ Rule. Check gallery for hours.

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"In the Headlights," by Kevin Frances.
Courtesy Leon Gallery
Kevin Frances. March is the Month of Printmaking, and among the attractions is Kevin Frances: Man in the Moon, on view at Leon Gallery. This is a very unusual show, anchored by Japanese-style woodblock prints but also including an installation of miniatures, along with photos, all of which are intimately interconnected. The New York-based Frances begins by making dollhouse-scale pieces of furniture and ordinary objects, as well as small architectural elements, like doors and sections of wall, all incredibly realistic. He then sets up little vignettes that he photographs, and the resulting photos are employed as preparatory studies for the woodblock prints. The show lays out all three types of work, and by looking at them together, viewers can follow his process. The little installation elements are really neat and the photos are great, especially in the way Frances catches the artificial yet natural-looking light, but it’s the prints that are the greatest achievement. Done with multiple woodblocks, inked in different colors, they click into an almost-photographic realism at first glance, their textural and expressive qualities only visible when more closely examined. Through March 28 at Leon Gallery, 1112 17th Avenue, 303-832-1599, Read the full review of Kevin Frances: Man in the Moon. Check gallery for hours.

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Installation view of Prints From Shark's Ink.
Michael Warren Contemporary
Prints From Shark’s Ink. For the last 44 years, Shark’s Ink has been producing fine-art prints by both internationally famous artists and many of the finest artists to have worked in Colorado. As its contribution to Mo’ Print/Month of Printmaking, Michael Warren Contemporary is saluting the press. The prints here represent a wide range of techniques done at Shark’s, including lithography and monotypes incorporating metal leaf, chine-collé and embossing, all showing the highest level of production values. Among the pieces by Colorado masters is “Summer Home,” a color lithograph by the late Betty Woodman. An interesting resonance occurs between this Woodman print and the print hanging next to it by Robert Kushner, done in monotype with collage; the relationship is more than coincidental, since Kushner includes fluid renderings of a Woodman ceramic bowl and pitcher. Teresa Booth Brown’s prints are other standouts: She flattens found imagery from magazines, turning them into variegated color fields, then assembles these blocks of forms and colors into constructivist patterns. Through March 28 at Michael Warren Contemporary, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-635-6255, Read the full review of Prints From Shark's Ink. Check gallery for hours.

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Taiko Chandler's installation at 528.0: Regional Juried Printmaking Exhibition at the Arvada Center.
Wes Magyar, courtesy of the Arvada Center
528.0 Regional Juried Printmaking Exhibition. One of the centerpieces of the Month of Printmaking, known as Mo’Print, is 528.0 Regional Juried Printmaking Exhibition, an expansive exhibit that fills the galleries on the main level of the Arvada Center. To determine who would be eligible to enter the show, the curator drew a circle with a 528-mile-long radius around Denver. In addition to falling within this geographic territory, entrants must also have been working in some kind of traditional printmaking technique, including etching, lithography and silk screening; Tamarind’s Brandon Gunn, University of Nebraska’s Karen Kunc and the Arvada Center’s Collin Parson juried the show. The realization that this isn’t your grandparents’ print show hits as soon as you enter the lower galleries, where there are installations by Taiko Chandler, Sue Oehme, Peter Yumi and Stephanie Alaniz. These gigantic installations could overwhelm the prints done in more conventional formats — flat, for example —but they don’t. Standouts of this type include works by Evan Colbert, Tony Ortega, Mami Yamamoto, Kristin Powers Nowlin, Marc Horovitz, Marco Hernandez and Joshua Butler. Through March 29 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, Read the full review of 528.0. The Arvada Center is closed for now.

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Installation view of Imprint: Print Educators of Colorado at the Arvada Center.
Wes Magyar, courtesy of the Arvada Center
Imprint: Print Educators of Colorado. This important invitational was limited to Colorado artists who teach some kind of printmaking. One of the stars is Mark Lunning, the master printer at Open Press in Sterling, who was one of the founders of the entire extravaganza that is the Month of Photography, or Mo’Print. The old saw that those who can, do, while those who can’t, teach, clearly does not apply to print instructors, simply because there are so many hard-to-master skills involved. Given this, it’s not surprising that some of the offerings in Imprint display remarkable technical expertise, like Jean Gumpper's Japonesque woodcuts. More fanciful, though equally well done, are the simple, nature-based designs that link the many small Melanie Yazzie prints to one another. A different aesthetic, a kind of Zap Comics style, is conveyed by Dennis Dalton’s weird narrative woodcuts. Also kind of cartoony are the charming renditions of robots printed on fabric that's used to make little pillows by Jonathan Nicklow. Other standouts, all showing off refined techniques, include pieces by Laura Grossett, Tony Holmquist, Matt Christie and a host of others. Through March 29 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, Read the full review of Imprint. The Arvada Center is closed for now.

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A facsimile of Francesca Woodman's studio using enlargements of a George Lange photo.
Courtesy of MCA Denver
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, Read the full review of Francesca Woodman: Portrait of a Reputation. The MCA is closed for now.

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Collage from Stacey Steers: Edge of Alchemy.
Courtesy of Stacey Steers
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, Read the full review of Stacey Steers: Edge of Alchemy. MCA Denver is closed for now.

"Autobiography," triptych by Robert Rauschenberg.
Courtesy of the Museum of Outdoor Arts
Rauschenberg. Robert Rauschenberg is a giant in the history of contemporary art and the focus of Rauschenberg: Reflections and Ruminations, a major display of his work. MOA co-founder Cynthia Madden Leitner is a longtime friend of the anonymous donor whose collection is at the center of the show, curated by Dan Jacobs and Sarah Magnatta. They've concentrated on Rauschenberg’s prints, particularly the newest ones. Considering this focus, it was inspired for the curators to include a series of nostalgic prints from the 1990s that take viewers back to the heroic days when Rauschenberg and his friends were changing the course of international contemporary art in the 1960s. While everything here is magnificent, the pieces done on large metal panels are revelatory. Some are made of patinated bronze covered in acrylics, while others are done on sheets of mirror-finished stainless steel that have a very different aura. Through June 13 at the Museum of Outdoor Arts, 1000 Englewood Parkway, Englewood, 303-806-0444, Read the full review of Rauschenberg: Reflections and Ruminations. The Museum of Outdoor Arts is closed for now.
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