Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The fall opener at the Center for Visual Art is a conscientious survey of the careers of Christo and Jeanne-Claude as seen through their personal print collection documenting their pioneering conceptual work that began in the 1960s. The exhibit, which includes more than a hundred works of art, is a major effort and clearly proves that, like Warhol, Christo and Jeanne-Claude were accurately anticipating the direction of contemporary art over the intervening four decades. Beginning in 1963, Christo began to fantasize about covering landmarks around the world in cloth secured by cables. The show includes ideas such as covering the Flatiron Building in New York, the Pont Alexandre in Paris, and the Vittorio Emanuele monument in Milan. The prints and drawings are all credited solely to Christo, while credit for the environmental pieces, like "Over the River," is shared with Jeanne-Claude. "Over the River" is set for Southern Colorado and will be the second piece by the artists in the state; "Valley Curtain" was installed in Rifle Gap back in the '70s.Through November 1 at the Metro State College Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207, www.metrostatecva.org. Reviewed September 4.
Clay and Glaze. Surely the most inconspicuous of the attractions in and around the Civic Center Cultural Complex is the Byers-Evans House, just west of the Gio Ponti tower of the Denver Art Museum. It is owned and run by the Colorado History Museum, which is just a couple of blocks to the east. Byers-Evans has fully decked out nineteenth-century period rooms, but it also has a gallery that this year has attempted to raise its profile by presenting serious exhibits. The latest is Clay and Glaze: The Ceramic Art of Nan and Jim McKinnell, which examines the individual and collaborative work by this pair of important Colorado artists. Jim was a renowned ceramic engineer and glaze chemist, but interestingly enough, his aesthetic was drawn from Japanese pottery, a predominant influence in mid-twentieth-century ceramics. Nan, on the other hand, was affected more profoundly by modern industrial design, adapting its aesthetic to her thrown and hand-built porcelains. The show briefly surveys sixty years of their work with pieces loaned by Nan (Jim is deceased), their friends and various private collectors. Through October 31 at the Byers-Evans House Gallery, 1310 Bannock Street, 303-620-4933, www.coloradohistory.org.
Susanne Kühn. Using pictures to tell stories was definitely a no-no in classic modern art and for the first three quarters of the twentieth century. That changed in the 1980s and '90s, when narrative painting made a huge comeback in contemporary art circles. One of the vanguards of this movement was the New Leipzig School from Germany. The artist featured in the eponymous solo Susanne Kühn, at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, is too young to be part of that movement, but her work is definitely the heir to it. Cydney Payton, director and chief curator of the MCA, put the exhibit together and has written an essay for the catalogue. Kühn's approach to picture-making is complex, with a decidedly photographic quality to her renderings. But the colors are strangely toned-up, which denies any sense of photographic realism. Kuhn also uses subtly different points of view and therefore employs differing perspectives, which also works against the idea of strictly representing external reality. But these disconnections meld as much as they collide with one another. Through September 21 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, ww.mcadenver.org. Reviewed June 19.
Mark Travis: A Memorial Exhibit. Last winter, Mark Travis, a Denver contemporary artist who had made his reputation in the go-go scene of the 1980s, died. Michael Burnett, who runs Space Gallery, had asked Travis to create a body of political work to be presented during the Democratic National Convention, so when Travis died, Burnett decided to do a show based on the works in the artist's studio instead, most of which were done in the last few years. His classic work, created in the '80s and early '90s, was entirely abstract, with the best pieces being mammoth mixed-media combine paintings that incorporated scraps of wood and metal Travis found in the alleys of his downtown neighborhood. In recent years, however, he increasingly embraced figural abstraction, inserting nude depictions of women into the middle of his abstractions. These vaporous figure studies came to completely dominate his pictures. This later figural abstraction is the kind of work that makes up the Space show, with female nudes seeming to emerge from the murky, all-over grounds. Through October 11 at Space Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, www.spacegallery.org.
— Michael Paglia