Best Photography Group Show -- Contemporary 2004 | Reflections in Black: Smithsonian African-American Photography, Metro State Center for the Visual Arts | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
The magnificent Reflections in Black: Smithsonian African-American Photography featured major works by contemporary black photographers who have been active during the past 25 years. The impressive traveling exhibit, which alighted briefly at Metro State's Center for the Visual Arts this past winter, included images by many of the most-talked-about photographers around, such as Carrie Mae Weems, Renee Cox and the Harris brothers, Thomas and Lyle. Organized by Deborah Willis for the Anacostia Museum and Center for African-American History and Culture, the CVA show was one of the art world's best bets last year.
The topic of water was on everyone's minds last summer, and artists were no exception, as demonstrated by Studio Aiello's over-the-top doris laughton: theSplatphenomenon2003. In it, Laughton used the shape a drop of water makes when it hits a hard surface to inspire scores of prints, photos, sculptures and a video. Her interest in hydrostatics was very fruitful aesthetically, so nearly everything in the show was successful visually -- particularly the monumental outdoor pieces.
For the group show Balance, young sculptor David Mazza installed his fabulous pieces throughout the building as well as in the sculpture garden outside, where he put a trio of major pieces. Mazza's abstract compositions, in which both straight and curved metal bars and tubes are precariously stacked on a pyramidal base, visually express the meaning of the exhibit's title. Even though he's still wet behind the ears and not long out of college, Mazza can already be regarded as one of the most talented sculptors working in Colorado.
Pursuits of Passion at Walker Fine Art was technically a group show, but it included what could have been a very large solo focusing on Boulder artist William Vielehr, whose sculptures were installed throughout. The most important Vielehrs were large abstracted figures made of fabricated aluminum sheets; one of Vielehr's greatest strengths is how he handles the surfaces, making them look like three-dimensional versions of abstract paintings. Vielehr's been around since the '60s, but he rarely exhibits in Denver, so this was an unusual opportunity to see his work.
Denver artist Annalee Schorr felt she was "embedded" in the Iraq war because she watched televised news coverage of it all the time. To create Shock/Awe, her politically charged solo at Spark Gallery, Schorr used enlarged photos of her TV screen. The juxtaposition of bomb-ravaged cities taken from cable news with images from shopping channels was positively chilling. Schorr is no neophyte when it comes to political art based on television; she first did it during the Gulf War, and one of her pieces at Spark paired images from that time with those from today. Then, as now, Schorr's sophisticated work was right to the point.
The spectacular exhibit now at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art has the novella-length title OVER A BILLION SERVED: Conceptual Photography From the People's Republic of China. The work in this knockout show, which is mostly digitally produced and deals with such hot topics as the Tiananmen Square revolt, SARS and creeping Americanization, is aesthetically, philosophically and technically distinct from contemporary American art. Julie Segraves, director of Denver's Asian Art Coordinating Council, assembled BILLION. As a close follower of the art scene in China, she was the ideal choice: It was surely her familiarity with the material that makes this MCA outing so darned mind-blowing.
Director's Choice marked the first time Ivar Zeile and Ron Judish worked together on the same exhibit. The occasion was the launch of their new art venture, + Zeile/Judish Gallery. The striking show featured the work of emerging Colorado artists who previously were little known in Denver. One exciting find was Jon Rietfors of Glenwood Springs, a young conceptual artist with a taste for neo-pop. His most significant piece was made of dozens of ramen-noodle packages and digital pictures of SpaghettiOs, while others employed packs of gum. Believe it or not, despite the lowbrow materials, the pieces were all extremely elegant.
Metro State's Center for the Visual Arts hosted a show last month that highlighted some of the most influential pottery of the last century. The traveling exhibit, Picasso: 25 Years of Edition Ceramics From the Edward and Ann Weston Collection, included more than sixty pieces of Picasso's ceramics that were done with Georges and Suzanne Ramié at their Madoura studio in Vallauris, on the southern coast of France. Picasso began to work with clay in 1947, and he continued until 1972, the year before he died. Just like everything else Picasso did, his pots, as seen here, were gorgeous.
BECAUSE THE EARTH IS 1/3 DIRT, which just closed at the University of Colorado Art Museum on the Boulder campus, featured an international array of contemporary ceramic artists. Participants were invited by a committee made up of CUAM director Lisa Tamiris Becker and three members of CU's art faculty: Scott Chamberlin, Kim Dickey and Jeanne Quinn. Just about every artist they selected is on the front lines of the medium, but perhaps none more so than Walter McConnell, who uses wet clay for his radical sculptures. Leopold Foulem, Lawson Oyekan and Annabeth Rosen were also responsible for making this show an unlikely blockbuster.
The retrospective Zamantakis: From the Earth, which was ensconced during the holidays at the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery on the campus of the University of Denver, was a major retrospective examining the fifty-year-plus career of one of the most important potters in the state. DU was an appropriate venue for this show because Mark Zamantakis is a graduate of the school and studied there with his mentor, the late John Billmyer. Zamantakis, whose father was born in Crete, combines the influence of ancient Hellenic pottery with the techniques and forms inspired by Asian ceramics. The result is a very distinctive, signature look.

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