Best Blockbuster Museum Exhibit 2001 | Painters and the American West | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Exhibition designers at the Denver Art Museum have been getting cutesy recently with kid-friendly gimmicks and other tricks that make it easy to ignore the art. But there was no ignoring the high quality of the paintings in last winter's Painters and the American West, which highlighted the collection of Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz. The paintings, which represent the broad sweep of American art history, have never been shown in Denver, and they're not likely to be shown again.
This loosely related trio of one-acts (Anton Chekhov's On the Harmfulness of Tobacco, Maria Irene Fornes's Dr. Kheal and Eugene Ionesco's The Lesson) explored knowledge's capacity to empower or paralyze. Propelled by Ed Baierlein's tour-de-force performance in each play, the evening was by turns hilarious, intriguing and frightening -- especially when Baierlein, who also directed and designed the production, turned the tables during a politically charged ending. Backed by a fine supporting cast, Baierlein's excursions into the swamps of academe re-established contextual fornicating as a favored -- and dangerous -- intellectual exercise.

To organize Vance Kirkland, Asian Paintings, a breathtaking show displayed late last summer, Hugh Grant, the director of the Vance Kirkland Foundation, which is the keeper of the late Denver artist's legacy, selected a combination of Kirkland's 1940s surrealist landscapes, and his abstract-expressionist paintings from the 1950s and '60s. Grant calls them Asian paintings not because they recall spots in Asia, but because Kirkland's travels in Asia led him to certain colors and concepts that he used for these pieces.

An evil barber's wet dream, Sancho's Broken Arrow provides a safe place for Denver's hairier denizens to converge, drink microbrews and compare notes on Dead bootlegs. A sister establishment to Quixote's True Blue (also on East Colfax), Sancho's tie-dyed, trippy interior is an atmospheric improvement over the Golden Nugget Country Disco, the previous business concern in the Capitol Hill space across from the Fillmore Auditorium. It's comfy and quaint in its own way. And most important, it's kind.

The Powerpuff Girls: Heroes & Villains (Kid Rhino) is ostensibly a CD tie-in to the Cartoon Network series in which a trio of tots named Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup regularly triumphs over animated evil. But it's also an exceedingly enjoyable indie-pop primer in which two first-rate local acts, the Apples in Stereo and Dressy Bessy, demonstrate why Denver has become a breeding ground for ultra-melodic college rock.
Over the years, Bud Shark's Lyons print studio, Shark's Inc., has attracted famous artists from across the country who wanted to make prints at the mountain compound. Oddly, these prints have ended up more often in New York and London than in Denver. But that changed when the William Havu Gallery put together last fall's Select Prints. Printmaking is a specialty of the gallery, so the fit with Shark's was a near-perfect one. The show included stellar pieces, some of them three-dimensional, the best by the likes of Red Grooms, John Buck and Betty Woodman.

Secret South proves that 16 Horsepower has survived the hurdles of record label fallout (the band has signed with Razor & Tie) and shifting membership with its creative faculties not only intact, but heightened: This swirling mass of music, informed by the skewed American traditionalism of David Eugene Edwards, his bandmates and local production ace Bob Ferbrache, is an emotional, often ominous trek that beckons the careful listener to find the calm within the storm. Banjo pluckings crouch behind walls of distortion; plaintive readings of American railway standards morph into discordance. It's a brilliant work, one that music lovers should be proud to regard as a hometown export.
Paintings done with stripes, bars, lines and planes is what you'll find at Rule Modern and Contemporary Gallery on most days. Director Robin Rule fills the rooms with a mix of minimalist old masters from New York, like Carl Andre and Mary Obering, and local talents, such as Clark Richert, the dean of geometric painting. From time to time, she also shows quirky abstracts, representational works and photos. But there's no denying that less is best at Rule.
Arguably the best art-rock band ever to hail from Denver, Thinking Plague first introduced itself to the public with ...A Thinking Plague and Moonsongs, a pair of platters recorded in the early and mid-'80s, respectively, that have been out of print for ages. Early Plague Years (Cuneiform) corrects this error, giving admirers another chance to hear a fine band in its nascent stages.
Smartly directed, honestly acted and imaginatively written, HorseChart's production of O.T. took on prickly issues with the kind of spunky tenacity that one expects from a group of theatrical renegades. Clay Nichols's drama, which was mounted as part of the National New Play Network, mixed flashback-style scenes with current happenings to raise questions about the embedded attitudes that give rise to prejudice and racism. The play worked because Nichols took pains to reveal each issue's complexities and ambiguities; combined with director Brett Aune's straightforward approach, O.T. proved that it deserved to be further developed and mounted again.

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