Art Review

Six Art Shows — And the Last Few Weeks to See the Horse Show at the DBG

Deborah Butterfield. The flowers, trees, bushes and water features at the Denver Botanic Gardens make it an ideal place for outdoor sculpture, which is why the DBG has presented a regular program of exhibits on the gorgeous grounds. The current offering, which will run through the summer, is Deborah Butterfield: The Nature of Horses, featuring a nice selection of the artist's metal sculptures depicting the noble beasts. In the 1970s, Butterfield began making horse sculptures from mud and wooden sticks, but she switched to more durable materials — cast bronze or welded scrap metal — in the ’80s. She says she was attracted to horses as a subject because she felt the dignified-looking animals made a good stand-in for the classic nude. Most of the horses look as if they were assembled out of logs and twigs – which is what the working models were – but they're actually bronze, with the casting and Butterfield's expert patination used together to carry out the fool-the-eye illusion. There is also one scrap-metal piece included. Don’t miss this show. Through October 18 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, 303-865-3500, 

Clyfford Still. Given that the Clyfford Still Museum is exclusively dedicated to a single artist, it’s amazing how imaginative director Dean Sobel is when it comes to finding new and different ways to address the work of the titular abstract-expressionist giant. This time, it’s Still’s unusual practice of creating, for a range of reasons, direct copies of his compositions that’s highlighted, in the impressive Repeat/Recreate: Clyfford Still’s “Replicas”. Sobel and CSM consulting curator David Anfam gathered up paintings and their copies, displaying them as companion pieces (which Still never intended) in order to illustrate this unexpected aspect of his oeuvre. The whole idea of an abstract expressionist like Still creating duplicates is shocking, as most people understand the movement to be about automatism, which is characterized by instinctually applied marks, à la Jackson Pollock’s action paintings. But Still was never an action painter, so the real revelation here is that he began creating these reproductions as early as the 1920s, when he was still a teenager. Through January 10 at the Clyfford Still Museum, 1250 Bannock Street, 720-354-4880,

Marilyn Minter. To call the retrospective Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty over-the-top would be a spectacular understatement, as the wow factor is reinforced around every corner. The traveling exhibit was put together by Bill Arning, the director of Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and Elissa Auther, who is acting as a guest curator at MCA Denver. Minter has had an interesting career. In 1975, when she was just out of grad school, her work was featured at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, and then she fell through the cracks of the East Village punk scene until the late 1980s, when Arning, then in New York, rediscovered her. In many ways, her work, which samples high fashion and porn, is more in tune now than it was then, especially given the post-feminist position she takes in her pieces. The MCA show includes photos, paintings (some of which are billboard-sized), wallpaper and videos; its design, along with Arning and Auther’s intentions, walks the viewer chronologically through Minter's career so that the course of her work is easy to follow. This is a great followup to last year’s Mark Mothersbaugh extravaganza. Through January 31 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554,

Showing OffDenver Art Museum director Christoph Heinrich has put together an exhibit on the fourth floor of the Hamilton Building highlighting works that have come into the permanent collection over the past several years. To some extent, Showing Off also surveys some of the temporary exhibits that have been presented at the DAM since Heinrich was hired in 2007, just a year after the Hamilton opened. It’s a compellingly smart strategy, as it coherently showcases the collection while documenting the DAM’s exhibition schedule. Showing Off has been installed instinctually rather than according to stylistic considerations. It is dominated by works from internationally famous artists like Nick Cave, Agnes Martin, Al Held, Glenn Ligon, Sol LeWitt and Vik Muniz. The output of these star artists is presented together with works by a large contingent of artists who either live in Colorado or once did, including John McEnroe, Martha Daniels, Amy Metier, Maynard Tischler, Stacey Steers and Daniel Sprick. Through April 17, 2016, at the Denver Art Museum. 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, Reviewed on June 25.

Virgil Ortiz. The Denver Art Museum’s Revolt 1680/2180: Virgil Ortiz, put together by Native Arts curator John Lukavic, functions as an extension of Showing Off, the group display of notable gifts made to the DAM in the 21st century. That’s because 23 of the 31 small sculptures in Revolt have also been promised to the museum. These sculptures stylistically refer to traditional Pueblo pottery, with the “1680” in the show’s title signifying the date of the Pueblo Revolt — but they are set in the imaginary future of 2180. Ortiz takes traditional motifs and uses them to create figures that have stepped out of the future: space travelers made of terra cotta. Ortiz comes by his inspiration the old-fashioned way: He grew up in New Mexico's Cochiti Pueblo and is a descendant of a family of distinguished Pueblo potters. But he’s also lived in New York, where he worked as a designer for Donna Karan, and he’s still active as a fashion designer, graphics artist and filmmaker and videographer. At the DAM, Ortiz’s sculptures are displayed in showcases, with the walls behind covered in blown-up images from a video. Through May 1, 2016, at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000,

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 recently to use a small part of it – a seventeen-acre field just to the south of the complex – 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. Through September 30, 2015, at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200, Reviewed July 10.

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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