Visual Arts

Reviewed: Expanding the Dialogue, Stephen Batura, Ana Maria Hernando and More

There's a lot to see in Denver this weekend, including the just reviewed Expanding the Dialogue: Part One at Space Gallery. But you only have a few more days to get to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, where Stephen Batura's solo closes this weekend. Keep reading for capsule reviews of those exhibits, as well as others around the metro area.
Ana Maria Hernando: We Have Flowers: Noted Colorado artist Ana Maria Hernando is the subject of a large, multi-part solo titled We Have Flowers at the CU Art Museum on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder. Hernando was born and raised in Argentina, and though she’s lived in this country for thirty years, more than twenty of those in Boulder, she maintains close ties to South America, which is clearly revealed in her installations, including those in this show. In the title piece, Hernando employs small flower-shaped doilies made by cloistered nuns in Argentina, arranging them on the wall into a large flower shape surrounded by smaller elements. In another, “A Dress for La Ñusta,” crocheted petticoats made by indigenous women in Peru take the form of a mountain. Hernando supplements these custom-made needleworks with acrylic circles that she cast herself and sometimes encase pieces of cloth; these circles are spread across the floor, extending the dimensions of the installations, which are further enhanced by Hernando's black-on-black paintings of flowers. Through October 22 at the CU Art Museum, 1085 18th Street, Boulder, 303-492-8300, Read the complete Ana Maria Hernando review.
Expanding the Dialogue. Space Gallery is participating in the current craze for women’s art by presenting the elegant group show Expanding the Dialogue: Part One. More than any other gallery in town, Space has focused on abstraction, so that’s what on tap in this exhibit. On the main level, four Colorado artists — Jane Guthridge, Taiko Chandler, Carlene Frances and Tonia Bonnell — are each given their own discretely defined section. Guthridge's includes an airy installation and an assortment of mixed-media wall pieces. Chandler does monotypes, presented straightforwardly and cut, pierced and bent in order to create a wall installation. There’s a selection of Frances’s scribbled paintings, and Bonnell displays some of her obsessively done drawings. Upstairs is the work of three artists — two from Colorado (Sophia Dixon Dillo and Wendy Kowynia), and one, Nancy Koenigsberg, from New York. These artists have stylistic affinities with those represented downstairs, but their efforts are distinctly different, too, in that they eschew traditional mediums and create 3-D works that function as 2-D ones. Through October 1 at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, Read the full review of Expanding the Dialogue here.
Jennifer Davey: What You Believe Is What You See. An ambitious painting solo at Point Gallery, Jennifer Davey: What You Believe Is What You See, features a nice selection of recent abstract paintings by Jennifer Davey, a Loveland-based artist. Davey’s style references classic modernism — in particular, abstract expressionism and color-field abstraction. Most of these pieces sport wide swaths of paint applied horizontally and vertically, creating intersecting bars of color that alternately reveal or obscure the painted layers she’s done below. Davey also incorporates scribbled automatist lines and spells out words across the picture plane with stenciled letters. Many of the works rely on pentimenti, the illusionary “ghosts” of under-painted passages showing through to the surface; some of this semi-hidden imagery suggests representational subjects like buildings or landscapes. But when when you look closer, it’s apparent that the forms Davey creates are non-objective — in spite of the fact that she has written that, as a Colorado native, the Western scenery informs her work. As is always the case at Point, the exhibit has been well laid out by gallery co-directors Frank Martinez and Michael Vacchiano.Through September 30 at Point, 765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-254-0467,

Rhythm & Roots. Over the summer the Denver Art Museum has presented shows and events about dance inspired by the anchor exhibit, Rhythm and Roots: Dance in American Art. The show is filled with masterworks, particularly in the form of paintings; some are famous but most are not well-known. The same goes for the artists: Some giants of art history are surrounded by less famous peers. Organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts and curated by Jane Dini, the exhibit was overseen in Denver by DAM curator Angelica Daneo. She tweaked the show’s existing structure by separating the works into four parts — “Roots,” “Rhythm,” “Stage” and “Collaboration” — and added sociological and historical content. Among the heavyweight works included are signature efforts by George Caleb Bingham, Joseph Henry Sharp, Walt Kuhn, John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri and Max Weber. Particularly compelling is the unusual Franz Kline portrait of a Russian dancer done just before the artist embraced abstract expressionism. Through October 2 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000,  Read the full review of Rhythm & Roots.
Stephen Batura. The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center has made a habit of presenting important solos focusing on contemporary Colorado artists, as evidenced in this summer’s major offering, Stephen Batura: A Reservoir of Occurrences, which looks at the artist’s work of the past fifteen years. During that time, Batura created his paintings, drawings and photos by appropriating imagery from photos by an itinerant Denverite, Charles Lillybridge, who worked in the early 1900s. Batura used the old photos to serve as ad hoc studies for his conceptual-realist paintings. The show occupies a large set of galleries on the CSFAC’s second floor and includes around thirty paintings and as many works on paper. The opening sequence in the entry space is dramatic, with three Batura paintings propped up against a charcoal-gray wall that serve as an index to the typical subjects that Lillybridge addressed (and Batura appropriated). It’s a great eye-catching moment that instantly hooks us into taking in the rest of this captivating exhibit. Through September 18 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581, Read the full review of Stephen Batura's show.

Under the Big Top. As suggested by its title, this charming group show at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center samples art about circuses. The idea for the exhibit arose because of the availability of a suite of prints from Marc Chagall’s “Le Cirque” series, depicting different circus scenes in the artist’s magic-surrealist style. Those have been supplemented by works from artists associated with the CSFAC’s history, such as Edgar Britton, Adolf Dehn and others. Among the Britton pieces is a small bronze of acrobats in which the figures and their implied movement have been abstracted. The Dehn lithographs are regionalist depictions of circus tents set at the foot of the mountains. The show also includes a major work from the center’s permanent collection: Walt Kuhn’s gorgeous “Trio,” a conventionalized — and somber — full-length portrait of three lean male acrobats decked out in their tights. Kuhn has simplified the figures, but their faces are rendered realistically. The two at either end are dressed in red, and the one in the middle is in white. “Trio” dominates the entire gallery. Through September 18 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581,
Women of Abstract Expressionism. This groundbreaking show, the first of its kind at a major museum, is the brainchild of the Denver Art Museum’s modern-art curator, Gwen Chanzit. The underlying idea is that the women who participated in the abstract-expressionist movement have been overlooked, and that this injustice is something that needs to be righted. Starting with a list of more than 100 potential participants, Chanzit ultimately chose the twelve that are showcased. She came up with this tight list so that each could be given a solo of sorts, in order for viewers to more easily perceive their respective styles. Despite the short shrift given to women abstract expressionists, four are already famous — three (Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler and Lee Krasner) because of their more famous husbands (de Kooning, Motherwell and Pollock, respectively), and one who gained fame on her own (Joan Mitchell). The others are Grace Hartigan, Judith Godwin, Mary Abbott, Sonia Gechtoff, Perle Fine, Deborah Remington, Jay DeFeo and Ethel Schwabacher. Through September 25 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, Read the review of Women of Abstract Expressionism.

Keep reading for more shows along the Front Range.

Audacious. Last summer, Rebecca Hart took the rudder of the Denver Art Museum’s Modern and Contemporary department, and Audacious: Contemporary Artists Speak Out, in the main galleries on the third level of the DAM’s Hamilton Building, is her debut effort. Although Audacious is meant to showcase objects from the DAM’s permanent collection, this particular assortment has been heavily salted with pieces from the private holdings of Kent and Vicki Logan. The largesse of other important donors is included, too, but to a lesser extent. Among the standouts are several works by American artists such as Philip Guston, Robert Colescott, David Hammons, Barbara Kruger, Brian Alfred and Ben Jackel. There’s also a big European presence, especially among the YBA (Young British Artists), who are now, alas, not so young. First among these is Damien Hirst’s “Do you know what I like about you?,” from 1994. Chinese art likewise plays a large role in Audacious, and there are even some Colorado artists included, among them Tony Ortega, Jack Balas and Viviane Le Courtois. Through February 26, 2017, at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000,

Phil Risbeck and John Sorbie
. It might seem like a stretch for Darrin Alfred, the Denver Art Museum’s curator of architecture, design and graphics, to come up with something relevant to dance, the museum’s theme this summer; after all, his specialties are defined by their static quality, while dance is about movement. But Alfred did, with the clever Performance on Paper: The Posters of Phil Risbeck and John Sorbie. Even more interesting is a connection that the show has to a different topic — that of Western art, with Alfred mounting the show in the Western American galleries. Dance posters are one of several categories of arts posters included, but the connecting thread is there. Designers Risbeck and Sorbie separately created remarkable bodies of posters, printed over many decades. And while it’s hard to make specific stylistic observations about either designer, some general ones can be made; for instance, both juxtapose eye-catching imagery with text blocks. Posters are easy to like, which is their mandate – but these are especially appealing, because they were done by world-renowned Colorado artists. Through January 8, 2017, at the DAM, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, Read the full review of the Phil Risbeck and John Sorbie show.

Stories in Sculpture. The Denver Botanic Gardens provides an ideal setting for outdoor exhibits, as has been shown repeatedly during the last decade. For its annual offering this summer, the DBG has borrowed sculptures — a baker’s dozen of them — from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Here’s the backstory: The Walker, which is redoing its famous sculpture garden, was looking for a place to put its sculptures at the same time that the DBG was looking for an appropriate show, and Stories in Sculpture: Selections From the Walker Art Center Collection came together in a wave of kismet. It begins with a bang: Reuben Nakian’s “Goddess,” a very abstracted rendition of a woman with her legs spread. Other memorable moments include a large gateway form by Isamu Noguchi; a signature Marino Marini — a conventionalized horse and rider; and an unusual Louise Nevelson, a later work that marks a break from the screen-like pieces that made her famous. Major pieces by Deborah Butterfield, Barry Flanagan, Giacomo Manzù, Henry Moore, George Segal and several others are also included. Through October 2 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, 720-865-3501,

Unbound: Sculpture in the Field. Since the Arvada Center sits on a very large site, exhibitions manager Collin Parson and assistant curator Kristin Bueb decided to use a small part of it as a xeric sculpture garden. Parson and Bueb invited Cynthia Madden Leitner, of the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Englewood, to partner with the Center in the effort. The MOA has made a specialty of placing large pieces of sculpture in various spots around metro Denver, and that technical expertise was very desirable. The group put together a list of sculptors they wanted to include, and the final roster of fifteen artists was established, with most being represented by two pieces. The participating artists, all of whom live in Colorado and work in abstraction or conceptual abstraction, are Vanessa Clarke, Emmett Culligan, John Ferguson, Erick Johnson, Andy Libertone, Nancy Lovendahl, Robert Mangold, Patrick Marold, David Mazza, Andy Miller, Charles Parson, Carl Reed, Joe Riché, Kevin Robb and Bill Vielehr. Extended through March 2017 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898­7200, Read the Unbound review here.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia