Denver Galleries Packed With Art on First Friday in May | Westword

First Friday: Union Hall’s Fifth Anniversary, the Mudd Club Show and Star Wars Galore

The force is with Denver artists at gallery shows small and large, and the arty parties start tonight.
DRIFT, “Meadow,” 2017, site-specific kinetic sculpture at the Denver Art Museum, through August 11.
DRIFT, “Meadow,” 2017, site-specific kinetic sculpture at the Denver Art Museum, through August 11. © DRIFT, PACE Gallery. Photo by Oriol Tarridas, 2021, courtesy of Superblue Miami
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First Friday in May is a knockout, full of great shows and special celebrations all over town.

Union Hall celebrates five years on the scene with a second look at some of the artists who’ve broken ground there, while Michael Warren Contemporary whoops it up with ten gallery artists showing work in the third round of its tenth-anniversary series. BRDG Project hosts a four-day <em>Star Wars</em> bash, and little independent galleries — Dateline, Alto, Lane Meyer Projects and Bell Projects — offer shows about dogs, birds, horses and the Mudd Club, in a love letter to lower New York City’s vibrant underground. And Santa Fe Drive will be full of Cinco de Mayo celebrations, with free admission to the Museo de Las Americas all day Friday.

Show some hustle. You’ve got art to see!
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Chrissy Espinoza, "Beacon."
Chrissy Espinoza, Union Hall Gallery
The Obstacle Is the Path
Union Hall Gallery, 1750 Wewatta Street, Suite 144
May 2 through June 1
Opening Reception: Thursday, May 2, 6 to 8 p.m.
Five Year Anniversary Party: Friday, May 31, 7 to 10 p.m.

Union Hall hosts a group show of ten artists who’ve previously shown there, in a celebration of the gallery’s fifth anniversary. Over the past five years, Union Hall has established itself as an exploratory venue, showing young, marginalized artists taking risks at a human level and/or seeking curatorial experience. Union Hall artists are diverse, highly creative and open to new art modalities. See how open-minded curation looks at the opening, and come back for the show’s closing party on May 31.
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A trio of paintings by Deb Adams-Welles.
Deb Adams-Welles, Michael Warren Contemporary
X.iii Tenth Anniversary Exhibition
Michael Warren Contemporary, 760 Santa Fe Drive
Opening Reception: Thursday, May 2, 5 p.m.
Michael Warren Contemporary reaches the third iteration of its Tenth Anniversary Exhibition, with artists Deb Adams-Welles, Robert Brinker, Teresa Booth Brown, Chris Erickson, Elizabeth Ferrill, Pamela Joseph, Marietta Patricia Leis, Mike McClung, Jay Phillips and Melanie Rothschild. Displays include Adams-Welles’s striking, totem-like compositions blocked out in various collaged fiber materials; Booth Brown’s abstract visuals using collage to bind architectural shapes, mixed media and straight-edged compositional pieces; and Aspen-based Joseph’s wildly decorated and layered mixed-media paintings on plexiglass. Beyond these, the overall exhibition comes together through original explorations in collage, layering and open spaces.

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A pop-culture droid by Andy Darth-ol (aka Vacchiano).
Michael Vacciano, BRDG Project
May the 4th Star Wars Art Exhibition and Party
BRDG Project, 3300 Tejon Street
Fine Art Exhibition: May 2 through May 5
Symphonic Performance: Friday, May 3, 6 to 7 p.m.
Kids’ Drop-in “Droid Art” Activity: Saturday, May 4, 2 to 5 p.m., free
Art War! Denver: Saturday, May 4, 7 p.m. to midnight; $15 at Eventbrite
BRDG Project continues to celebrate Star Wars and May the 4th in its new Northside home. The long weekend includes an exhibition of Star Wars art by more than forty artists, a concert of Star Wars tunes performed by violinist Sarah Whitnah and cellist David Short, a free opportunity for youngsters to create their own Star Wars trading cards, and a culminating party and costume contest for adults.
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Fiber artist Heather Schulte plans a project.
Heather Schulte and ArtLab Interns, What Makes It Home?
PlatteForum A.I.R. Annex Gallery, 3575 Ringsby Court
May 3 through May 26
Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 6 to 8 p.m.
Heather Schulte Artist Talk: Thursday, May 16, 6 to 7 p.m.
PlatteForum’s current resident, fiber artist Heather Schulte, worked with young ArtLab interns to explore “home” as a signpost in the current sociopolitical realm, considering pandemics, war, asylum-seeking, finding shelter and gaining a sense of belonging in a mixed-up world. To that end, Schulte and her students built an immersive installation focusing on the role of “home” and the things within that define a more hospitable world for all.
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Work by Cami Galofre for Modern Post-Modern: Presentness Is Grace.
Cami Galofre
Modern Post-Modern: Presentness Is Grace
Emmanuel Gallery, 1205 10th Street Plaza, Auraria Campus
Through July 19
The four artists represented in Modern Post-Modern: Presentness Is Grace, at the University of Colorado Denver’s Emmanuel Gallery, all follow the visual backlash called post-modernism, which rejects the sheer process-based compositions of pure modernism by allowing artists to pursue a more compelling dialogue with their viewers. Colombian artist Cami Galofre does so on DayGlo-hued canvases depicting fantasy landscapes formed by undulating parallel lines,  imbuing natural places with inner life, while painter Vivian George explores the life force of flowers in wild splashes of color and movement. Collin Parson bends the eye toward a palpable human experience with scientific precision and geometric puzzles; meanwhile, Autumn Thomas reflects personal issues of intersectional racism and sexism through constructions of smooth wood bent into resilient curves, showing that which makes you change adds layers of strength and wisdom.
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Jack Estenssoro, “Chipotle Cat,” 2024, oil on canvas.
Jack Estenssoro, Dateline Gallery
Jack Estenssoro, Whole Ocean
Dateline Gallery, 3004 Larimer Street
Opening Reception: Friday May 3, 6 to 11 p.m.
Jack Estenssoro returns to Dateline for a third exhibition of paintings based in popular culture, religious art, current events, the cult of personality, satire and everything lowbrow. It’s not unlike scrolling aimlessly on a smartphone, watching one visual bite after another on TikTok (while you still can) or seeking memes in the making, ad infinitum — but in a good way. The title? “Tell em to bring out the whole ocean!”-DJ Khalid on TikTok. Yeah.
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Janelle Anderson, “Midnight Runners,” 2023, oil on panel.
Janelle Anderson, Alto Gallery
Janelle Anderson, Parade of Thieves
Alto Gallery, 1900 35th Street
May 3 through June 1
Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 6 to 10 p.m.; RSVP here

Janelle Anderson upholds free creatures — soaring birds and galloping horses — as the last unchained beings, significant in how they hold on to their animal instincts, singularly and in collusion with their animal communities. Her visual metaphor is a broken-up form of composition, exercised most recently as multi-panel paintings in which the animals are free to run through life individually or with a group.

A Tribute to the Mudd Club
Lane Meyer Projects, 2528 Walnut Street
May 3 through May 26
Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 8 p.m. to late
Curator Brooke Tomiello and Lane Meyer Projects put out a call this year for the gallery’s fourth annual Mudd Club exhibition, a concept that aims to reclaim the creative underground energy of the long-gone TriBeCa joint. Early on, Mudd Club habitués were downtown cultural figures — Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring; the cream of the punk, new-wave and no-wave musicians; designers Betsey Johnson and Anna Sui, who put on runway shows at the club; and too many others to mention — bumping elbows, plotting collaborations and trading paintings beginning in 1978. But trendier crowds began to flock there in the ’80s, leading to its closure in 1983. The open call at Lane Meyer invites Colorado artists to hang one wall work, no larger than 36 by 36 inches, with the option of selling or trading individually.
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Danny Mazur of Soul Stories works with DAVA students.
Courtesy DAVA
Downtown Aurora Visual Arts (DAVA), 1405 Florence Street, Aurora
May 3 through July 8
Opening Reception: Friday May 3, 4 to 7 p.m.; poetry reading by Angelina Gallagher at 4:30 p.m.
DAVA’s young artists were encouraged to engage in a variety of creative modalities for Reflections, a youth exhibition inspired at the outset by Danny Mazur and Angelina Gallagher from Soul Stories, a nonprofit offering events and workshops that combine dialogue, storytelling and creative expression of different perspectives. Middle-schoolers created art accompanied by written stories and even audio, animation and spoken word to accompany the images, and younger kids were tasked with building personal worlds using various art genres, as well as creating one-sheet graphic novel projects based on their own stories about their individual worlds. Meanwhile, the high school group used a variety of printmaking styles to create art backdrops for their stories of personal journeys.
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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at CHAC Gallery with art by Esmeralda Patino.
Esmerelda Patino
Celebration of Culture: Cinco de Mayo Celebration and Exhibit
CHAC @ 40 West, 7060 West 16th Avenue, Lakewood
May 3 through May 31
Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 5 to 9 p.m.
The artists of CHAC, including featured artist and crafter Esmeralda Patino, will celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the holiday remembering Mexico’s defeat of the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, with a Celebration of Culture exhibition in a party atmosphere. As at every First Friday in 40 West throughout the year, the whole district will come alive with galleries, food trucks, live music and more free entertainment. Into May the Fourth Star Wars festivities? Stop by Creature Arcade, 1601 Reed Street, Suite 110, Lakewood, for vendors, costumes and shenanigans from 6 to 9 p.m. (The flash event continues on Saturday and Sunday.)
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Eli West, “F**ngies,” mixed felted fiber.
Eli West
Eli West, grass is greener, with debut works by Max Carroll
Amy Lee Solomon, Somewhere Between Painting and Drawing
Guest Artist: Nicholas Nakia Garcia

Pirate: Contemporary Art, 7130 West 16th Avenue, Lakewood
May 3 through May 19
Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 6 to 10 p.m.
Member Eli West celebrates spring at Pirate with a new body of fiber works called grass Is greener, making extra space for debut pieces by Max Carroll and contributed dioramas by other guest artists, while associate Amy Lee Solomon pitches in with new mixed-media architectural views.
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Madeleine O'Connell and Brooks Luby show off their new line.
Brooks LTD.
Brooks Luby and Madeleine O’Connell, Painted Threads
Brooks Ltd. Atelier, 1301 Wazee Street
Friday, May 3, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, May 4, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Veteran Denver fashion designer Brooks Luby collaborated with artist Madeleine O’Connell to create a collection of wearable art with decorative hand-painted images and details that they’ll be showing off over the weekend at Luby’s loft atelier, along with gift items, jewelry and fresh table linens. Made up of both dressy and casual pieces, including new simple cotton T-shirts with big, colorful pockets, the airy clothing is perfect for spring and summer.
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Jennifer Nehrbass, “Rush,” 2024, oil on canvas.
Jennifer Nehrbass, Visions West Denver
Jennifer Nehrbass, Lacuna
Visions West Contemporary, 2605 Walnut Street
May 3 through June 8
Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 6 to 8 p.m.
Visions West presents bold, color-saturated contemporary landscapes and female portraits that jump off the canvas by Jennifer Nehrbass, an Albuquerque-based painter and sculptor.
Colleen Tully, “One Heart,” oil on found wood.
Colleen Tully
Colleen Tully, Velvet Bones, through May 26
Guest Artist Karen Watkins, through June 2

Valkarie Gallery, 445 South Saulsbury Street, Lakewood
Live Painting: Friday, May 3, 5 to 8:30 p.m.
Opening Reception: Saturday, May 4, 5 to 8:30 p.m.
Valkarie favorite Colleen Tully pulls together a fine show of fantasy-laden works, including some pieces framed by vintage found frames and furniture parts, and returning guest artist Karen Watkins continues to please her fans with the creatures and spirits from an enchanted forest that dwell in her paintings on wood as well as felted shadow boxes that hang on the wall.
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Johanna Mueller demonstrates her woodcutting technique.
Johanna Mueller, A.R. Mitchell Museum
Uncommon Collective: Colorado Printmakers
AR Mitchell Museum, 150 East Main Street, Trinidad
Through May 31
Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 5 to 8 p.m.
Should you fancy a road trip south on I-25, the A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art is ceding its walls to printmakers with the showcase Uncommon Collective: Colorado Printmakers, opening Friday as a coda to the 2024 Month of Printmaking, with a focus on print artists mostly working outside of Denver and across the state. Also offered this weekend: interactive free printmaking demos and classes for a fee on Saturday, May 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; find details and registration here. And the more the merrier: In the same building, Kuehl Fine Art presents a new installation exhibition by JayCee Beyale, opening concurrently on May 3.
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Los Supersónicos. "Here Comes Rusty."
Los Supersónicos, Hey Hue
Celebrate Rusty
Greyhound Grounds Coffee House, 6230 Glencoe Street, Commerce City
Saturday, May 4, 1 to 4 p.m.
Free, RSVP at
Who doesn’t love the Commerce City public art sculpture "Here Comes Rusty," a tribute to the former Mile High Kennel Club dog track’s coursing rabbit by Carlos Frésquez and Francisco Zamora (aka Los Supersónicos). Westword certainly does: It won Best of Denver kudos in 2023. Saturday is a perfect day to check it out. A family- and pet-friendly Celebrate Rusty party is being thrown where the sculpture stands, in front of Greyhound Grounds Coffee House. Meet the artists, enjoy music by the Mariachi Corazon de Oro youth band, meet adoptable greyhounds and snack on Rusty cookies.
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Man loves dog: Rick Dallago, "Kevin."
Rick Dallago, Bell Projects
The Dog Show
Bell Projects, 2822 East 17th Avenue
May 4 through June 2
Opening Reception: Saturday, May 4, 6 to 10 p.m.
The Dog Show Art Market: Saturday, May 11, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dog Adoption Day With The Snuggle Is Real: Saturday, May 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Pet Portraits with the Bark Garage: Saturday, May 25, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Speaking of dogs, Bell Projects brings back its popular juried dog-art spectacular, The Dog Show, this weekend, with fantastic works by 35 local and national artists: It’s a must for anyone who loves dogs and art. Can’t make the opening? Come back next Saturday for a Dog Show Art Market with handmade gift items for humans and dogs alike. Additional doggy events follow every Saturday in May.
Bill Jude Rumley, "Pronouns."
Bill Jude Rumley
Bill Jude Rumley, Allure
Galapago Space, 923 Galapago Street (enter through alley)
Opening Reception: Saturday, May 4, 5 to 9 p.m.
TAG, the two-man curational collective of Tobias Fike and Donald Fodness, put together a show of curious works by artist and professor Bill Rumley on the occasion of his retirement. Rumley has led an eclectic life with many interests, from the National Western Stock Show to the art of fly fishing, all of which define the work in this exhibition.
Biophilia: Nature Reimagined

Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway
May 5 through August 11

One good reason to see Biophilia, which opens this weekend at the Denver Art Museum? It defines, in visual terms, why the human race must protect the natural world. Wonder, modernity, science, design and human instinct are all touched by the exhibition’s breathtaking installations. The show was put together by DAM curator of Architecture and Design Darrin Alfred, who has orchestrated a panorama of natural and unnatural beauty within the structure of Biophilia with work by international architects and designers. The show is included in general admission.

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