Local municipalities have been promoting drought-friendly grasses that stay green with less water, but last year, Englewood went further by planting "turf" in a South Broadway median that requires no water. The "grass" in question is a colored-aluminum sculpture called "Virere," by Lawrence Argent, the first of four works the Denver artist is doing for the town. Though "Virere" has blades that tower several stories over the street, it will never need mowing, either.
This past fall, one of the state's most influential sculptors showed off his recent creations in the magical Scott Chamberlin. The Robischon Gallery exhibit featured wall-mounted pieces that looked like traditional European wall fountains -- not surprising, since Chamberlin, a University of Colorado ceramics professor, had earlier taken a busman's holiday to Portugal and was surely inspired by the wonderful ceramics there. Despite the foreign influence, however, these latest pieces were signature Chamberlin and not so different from the kind of thing he's been doing all along.
Art has been doing a double take on pop art lately, with a lot of new creations looking forward to the 1960s. A variety of pieces of this type were put together in This Year's Model, a great group effort mounted last summer at the now-closed Cordell Taylor Gallery. This pop-y show included some of those smart-looking paintings of slogans by hot young artist Colin Livingston; bas-relief wall sculptures of animal forms on armatures by John McEnroe, one of the state's premier conceptualists; and provocative, gilt-framed beefcake shots of homeless guys by nationally known photographer Cinthea Fiss.
First Fridays

Santa Fe Drive Over the past few years, dozens of galleries and art spots have opened on Santa Fe Drive between 5th and 9th avenues, making this four-block stretch the unofficial epicenter of the Denver art world. And public response to the burgeoning art district has been phenomenal, as evidenced by the tremendous success of First Fridays on Santa Fe, when the galleries stay open late on the first Friday of each month. On a typical night, more than a thousand aesthetes turn out, strolling in and out of art spaces that range from longtime resident CHAC to the Museo de Las Américas to Art 825 to the brand-new POD (with stops for sustenance at El Taco de México, El Noa Noa or one of the other neighborhood Mexican eateries). All in all, Friday nights on Santa Fe are a heck of a party, not to mention the best ongoing art event in town.

Rule Gallery typically presents the work of established artists, but once in a while an emerging talent gets through the door. That's what happened with Pard Morrison: Recent Sculpture and Paintings. Morrison's works fit the gallery perfectly, because they're neo-minimalist, the style of choice for director Robin Rule. The pieces were aluminum boxes patinated in a range of tones, which gave the surfaces an uneven, painterly quality at odds with the hard edges of the forms. Morrison is surely an artist worth keeping track of in the coming years.
Even though the paintings in David Yust: PAINTING IN CIRCLES and Other Abstract Works included pieces that dated from the mid-1960s to late last year, the display was not a retrospective of the local modern master's career. Instead, curator Erica France examined a handful of currents in Yust's oeuvre, most notably his use of the circle. In a series of small rooms, non-objective abstracts revealed how Yust, one of Colorado greatest artists, has variously employed circles over the decades. Long story short: France's idea worked, and the result was a dazzling show.
Abstract-expressionist painting has miraculously held on despite the onslaught in the last decade of "new media," a field that includes installation, performance, video and digital. These forms were supposed to make painting look out of date, but, as Wet Paint proves, that's not what happened. The exhibit, which is open through April 10, showcases three artists covering new ground by riffing on classic ideas. And that's a national trend, as the show also proves, because the three artists live in different big cities across the country: Jeffrey Keith is from Denver, John Himmelfarb comes from Chicago, and Michael Rubin hails from New York.
The Denver Art Museum pays a lot of attention to artists from the turn of the last century because they're a popular group guaranteed to bring in big crowds of viewers. The lineup of traveling solos that have stopped by the DAM in recent years includes Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Bonnard, Homer and, last summer, John Singer Sargent. The Andy Warhol of his time, Sargent was a gay dandy reveling in the chic world of the rich, but the paintings in Sargent and Italy concern only his love for Italy, where he often vacationed and, interestingly enough, was born.
Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art has been dealing with its space crunch in a couple of ways: planning a new building and sponsoring off-site exhibits. One of the latter was middle ground: Stephen Batura, a breathtaking display of the Denver artist's signature representational paintings. Done in casein and acrylic, the mostly monumental pieces are based on photos from the late nineteenth century that Batura found in the Denver Public Library. This show's only shortcoming was being installed in the hard-to-find Walnut Foundry.
The wonderful Andrea Modica: Photographs at Sandy Carson Gallery last winter provided an in-depth look at the work of the internationally known photographer, who lives in Manitou Springs. In her poetic photos, Modica explores the relationship between truth and fiction by using posed and documentary shots, which she takes with a large-format camera over a long period of time. The show included some classic images from her famous series of a farm family in upstate New York, as well as some of her newest ones, which were taken in southern Colorado last year. Modica's subjects may be mundane, but her takes on them are absolutely not.

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