Visual Arts

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

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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, denverartmuseum.org.

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, denverartmuseum.org. 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, botanicgardens.org.

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, arvadacenter.org. Read the Unbound review here.
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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