Best Political Group Show 2004 | OVER A BILLION SERVED: Conceptual Photography From the People's Republic of China, Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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.
Youngsters are the real stars at PlatteForum, even though some of the biggest names in the local art world are artists in residence. Sculptors, painters, dancers and other representatives of the arts work with local classrooms to develop collaborative cultural projects, and when they're finished, PlatteForum gives the kids -- and mentoring adults -- a space to display their achievements.

In a town where most of the street festivals have become indistinguishable, the Larimer Arts Association came up with something completely different last year: In the great Renaissance tradition, the group invited artists of all levels to decorate the sidewalk with chalk art. Over two days, the corridor became a canvas of colors, sounds and food. La Piazza dell'Arte will return again this year on June 19 and 20, with a bigger, better format that includes an opportunity for artists to reproduce and preserve their street fare for a gallery show, since the actual pavement chalk drawings are washed away at the end of the weekend. Step right up.
With at least twenty music festivals already on the roster, Colorado didn't really need another. But the founders of Blues From the Top believed wholeheartedly that Grand County needed a dose of the blues, so last year they debuted a two-day extravaganza at SolVista Golf and Ski Ranch, just two miles outside of Granby. The lineup was solid, the setting stunning. It was a well-intentioned attempt to bring nationally known acts to somewhere in the county other than Winter Park. These were blues you could use.
The quaint town of Lyons, on the St. Vrain River, has numerous low-key attractions, including Oskar Blues, a first-rate blues-and-brews club that's even received shout-outs from Rolling Stone. Live acts range from members of the Colorado Blues Society to Pinetop Perkins, all augmented nicely by a Cajun-flavored menu and house-brewed beers. Of course, making the eighty-mile round trip to the Boulder bedroom community and back is a little daunting. Instead, gather up to sixteen friends and charter the wildly painted Blues Bus (which could double as Ken Kesey's famous ride of yore) and head up the hill for a night of revelry.
Last summer, the Central City Opera featured L'Italiana en Algeri, Gabriel's Daughter -- an original production based on the life of the first female freed slave in gold rush Colorado -- and an evening that combined the famed and familiar I Pagliacci and the rarely performed Goyescas. L'Italiana was laugh-out-loud funny, Gabriel's Daughter poignant, and all three evenings featured magnificent music. This summer, Central City will present The Tales of Hoffman, The Student Prince and The Juggler of Notre Dame. You don't need to be an opera aficionado to enjoy sitting in this gem of a theater while some of the finest voices in the country flow around you -- unmiked and undistorted. But, please, leave the cell phones and crinkly candy wrappers at home.

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