Arts and Culture

Twelve Denver arts flashbacks from 2012

Art-museum shows reigned in 2012, from a couple of demographic-busting blockbusters at the Denver Art Museum to a visual constellation of exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Arts Denver, the Colorado Photographic Arts Center and other satellites that paid tribute to a West Coast punk moment in time. But 2012 was also an excellent year for small galleries, where young artists gained a foothold, offering glimpses of nascent greatness.

Here are some of our favorite art flashbacks, in chronological order.

See also: - Fifteen best Denver art moments in 2011

Viviane Le Courtois, Edible?, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art February 23 - June 14, 2012

Denver-based French artist Viviane Le Courtois celebrated twenty years of making art that is as conceptual as it is palpable in this BMoCA retrospective of her many morphing and decaying art experiments. At the end of this fascinating rainbow was a new installation, The Garden of Earthly Delights, which comprised a growing indoor garden of edible greens. And every weekend through the run of the show, Le Courtois served salad using those greens, along with tea in temporary cups she'd fashioned from clay, in community gatherings with friends at her studio. It was not only a well-deserved showcase, but a fascinating walk through the career of an ever-maturing local artist.

See also: -We are what we eat - Follow the slow decay of Viviane le Courtois's earthborn artworks at BMoCA

Elena Stonaker, Celestial Terrestrial, Hinterland. February 24 - March 16, 2012

Elena Stonaker's bead- and sequin-encrusted dolls and creatures are more than pretty objects to set on a shelf. Beautiful and striking and a little out there, they reach beyond craft in a way that can't quite be explained, and they have a provocative, talismanic inner power that echoes in her imagery of third eyes and shamanic deities. Plus, they're stinkin' gorgeous and, in this show, monumental -- larger-than-life gods and goddesses swinging from the ceiling at Hinterland in a protective circle. Sadly for us here in Denver, Stonaker moved on to New York after this show, but she left behind some stunning juju for us to remember.

See also: -Elena in Wonderland

Continue reading for more flashbacks. Xi Zhang, 11 Ceremonies, Plus Gallery March 8 - April 14, 2012

Xi Zhang -- a traveler to the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, all the way from Kaifeng, China -- brought with him an almost uncanny, fully formed spirit of contemporary Chinese painting. This small, tight, color-splashed show at Plus Gallery sealed the deal, reminding us that we had a skilled genius in our midst.

See also: - Set to Stun

Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective, Denver Art Museum March 25 - July 8, 2012

We've had all sorts of blockbusters roll through town over the years, but YSL brought with it a mystique that steamrolled over all of them. The elegance and artistry of French couture captured the hearts of culture-starved Denverites. The retrospective yielded one panoramic view of high style after another, culminating in a spectacular wall of tuxedos and a pastiche of evening wear and peacockery that left the most style-conscious viewers dry-mouthed and reeling. Nice snag, DAM.

See also: - Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective -- the hottest ticket in town - Couture Club - Mona Lucero dishes on YSL and the magic of haute couture

Continue reading for more flashbacks. Search & Destroy, MCA Denver and satellite locations March - June, 2012

MCA borrowed the ethos of its earlier West of Center, which focused on the counterculture of the American West in the `60s and `70s, and zeroed in on the next stage -- West Coast punk -- for Search and Destroy, a constellation of satellite exhibitions and happenings both large and small in a galaxy that included the Colorado Photographic Arts Center and Gildar Gallery, among other hot spots. Cultural stars of a certain time and place, such as Bruce Conner, Ruby Ray, Richard Peterson and Penelope Huston, passed through its spotlight, and music, photography, artifacts and installations combined to define a subculture, keeping us busy from the end of March until the middle of June.

See also: -Punk invades MCA this Friday: Steven Wolf on West Coast punk - Photos: The Search & Destroy opening at MCA, 3/30/12 - Noah Van Sciver goes to Bruce Conner & Richard Peterson at MCA - Kids Like Us - Steal This Punk

The Big Blue Bear poops April 2012

Yes, this happened. One fine spring morning, we woke up to find that our beloved Big Blue Bear -- Lawrence Argent's "I See What You Mean" peering into the Colorado Convention Center -- had taken a big, blue dump. Who knew the bear would have matching blue poop? Denver has a sense of humor.

See also: - Art attack? The Big Blue Bear needs a Big Blue Bathroom - Attention Big Blue Bear art bomber: The city wants to give your blue poop back - Big Blue Bear's crap inspires art critic to horse around with DIA's Blue Mustang

Continue reading for more flashbacks. Jetsonorama, M12 Collective Action on the Plains, Byers June 28 - July 1, 2012

Jetsonorama, aka Dr. Chip Thomas, normally oversees his wheat-pasting projects in Navajo country, where the beautiful graphic images on the sides of shacks, trailers and silos bring life to the desert landscape, set off by dramatic skies and endless sandy stretches. But for a long weekend last summer, he brought the concept to equal effect on Colorado's Eastern prairie as part the M12 Collective's ongoing Action on the Plains. Thomas collaborated with the Turecek family, a fourth-generation farming fixture in Byers, to paste up a little local agricultural history across their land. It's beautiful reminder that art belongs everywhere.

See also: - Artist/doctor Jetsonorama begins rural public art project today in Byers

Michael Chavez is appointed public art administrator for Denver Arts & Venues July 2012

We couldn't have been more tickled to learn that Michael Chavez, who'd previously led Golden's Foothills Art Center into the twenty-first century by contemporizing its scope, was taking the reins from the departing Kendall Peterson as public art administrator for Denver Arts & Venues. His goal is not only to maintain and grow the city's collection, but to find new ways to make it more accessible to the public it serves. We're looking forward to seeing Chavez grow into the position.

See also: - Former Foothills curator Michael Chavez to oversee Denver's public art collection Continue reading for more flashbacks. Noah Van Sciver's The Hypo, published by Fantagraphics Fall 2012

It's not hard to imagine Noah Van Sciver as a kind of cartooning Bob Cratchett, bent over his creaky drafting table in a wool scarf and hat, painstakingly cross-hatching his way through pages and pages of comic gold. That's totally not true, but there's genius in this young man's mind and fingers, and he's earned his success with hours and hours of hard work, turning out his Blammo comics, "Four Questions" in Westword and countless other works. His new graphic novel, The Hypo, which illustrates a little-known chapter in the life of Abraham Lincoln, is hitting all kinds of top-ten lists nationally this season, and we can hardly wait to see what he does next.

See also: - The flip side of Mr. Lincoln - Read an excerpt from Noah Van Sciver's The Hypo; get the book at Kilgore tomorrow night

Becoming Van Gogh, DAM October 21 - January 20

We'd barely caught our breath after YSL left town, when Becoming Van Gogh reclaimed the Denver Art Museum's walls for fine art. The dream and brainchild of curator Timothy Standring, the exhibition is the result of years of research, and even more years spent wheeling and dealing for the right conceptual puzzle pieces; its goal, to meticulously demonstrate Van Gogh's growth from artist to master, is beautifully realized. Kudos to the DAM for this in-house masterpiece.

See also: - Becoming Van Gogh - Picture Vincent van Gogh as you've never seen him before at the Denver Art Museum Continue reading for more flashbacks. Reopening of the McNichols Building October 24, 2012

Built more than a century ago as a Carnegie library, the McNichols Building has been aching for a redo for years. With its new reincarnation as an arts center and rental venue for elegant events on the edge of Civic Center Park, its classical facade's been given new meaning with a flourish of colorful banners and public art, inside and out.

See also:

- Works in progress: Behind the scenes at the revived McNichols in Civic Center Park Ravi Zupa, One Million Things, Black Book Gallery November 2-30, 2012

Denver doesn't have any old masters, but Ravi Zupa is surely one of its young ones: He wields his brush with an eye for history, mashing up cultures, centuries and genres onto perfectly composed picture-collages that make some viewers think and philosophize and others drop their jaws in wonderment. In his exhibit statement, Zupa called this show "an attempt to wrap my fingers around one million things and lay them out flat, onto wood and paper, for you to look at," and we're thankful to have seen them all.

See also: - Countdown to Denver Arts Week: Ravi Zupa at Black Book Gallery

What were your favorite moments and exhibits in 2012? What are you looking forward to in 2013? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Find information on hundreds of other arts and entertainment events in our online Calendar.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd