Justin Beard went all out to create his funny, smart and somewhat politically incorrect installation "Second Hand Smoke" at Capsule@Pod. The meticulously crafted piece was also interactive. Beard placed a black table in front of a red-vinyl-covered banquette. On the table was an open, bound sketchbook, which contained a stencil and, underneath, a vacuum. Visitors were invited to sit at the banquette and smoke a cigarette; as the vacuum pulled their exhaled smoke through the page, the residual tars spread to color the open areas of the stencil. Ironically, the finished smoke-drawings were traditional in style -- unlike the work itself.

Ron Wohlauer was a legend among Colorado photographers, with a style best exemplified by his majestic black-and-white landscapes. Sadly, he died last year after battling repeated bouts of cancer. In a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction moment, Wohlauer's latest book of photos, SMALL ROOMS and HIDDEN PLACES, came out just a few days after he passed away. There was nothing else to do but to put on a memorial show based on the book. And that's precisely what John Grant of the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs did, curating a gorgeous exhibit at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center. Credit is also due to Skip Kohloff and Lisbeth Neergaard Kohloff, CPAC's heart and soul, respectively, for hastily clearing the decks to make room for it.

Best Photography Solo -- Established Artist

David Sharpe

For his self-titled show at the Robischon Gallery, photographer David Sharpe focused on unfocused shots of the Western landscape taken with primitive, homemade cameras -- the kind of thing he's done for years. His pinhole cameras are made from cylindrical containers such as oatmeal boxes. Aping the method of nineteenth-century photographers, Sharpe travels into the countryside with an ad hoc photo lab -- though the actual printing goes on in his home studio. There he has mounted an enlarger in his garage attic and projects the images through a hole onto light-sensitive paper on the garage floor. The great distance between the projection and the paper allows Sharpe to produce large prints from his tiny originals.

Sometimes shows in Pirate's cramped and awkwardly shaped Associates' Space outshine the main attractions up front. That was surely the case when Conor King's Sentience was on view there. The twenty-something King, a recent University of Colorado graduate, created six photo enlargements framed in natural-wood boxes. The photos were illuminated from behind, making them glow. The images depicted people involved in enigmatic activities -- like a man on a rope raiding a nest filled with giant eggs. The room was lit only by the glow of the photos, which unified them and also established an appropriately somber mood.

Open Press LTD: A 15-Year Anniversary was a short course in the recent history of printmaking in Denver. The show, presented at the Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, was an enormous survey of the fruits of the fine press founded by master printer Mark Lunning. Over the years, Lunning has facilitated scores of artists in making thousands of prints in Denver. The daunting job of winnowing the selections down to a manageable number fell to the GCA's longtime director, Gerry Riggs, who created an exhibit that included a big chunk of the contemporary-art scene around here.

Computers have had a big effect on the visual arts, especially photography: Digital cameras and digital printing are now the standards. And though the pieces in Quintin Gonzalez: digital images resembled digital photos, they were actually drawings created with a variety of software applications. One of the most striking features of the work was the iridescent palette of remarkable tones that Gonzalez squeezed out of a LightJet printer. Not only is Gonzalez one of the best high-tech artists in town, but he also inspires the creative use of technology as a teacher at the University of Colorado at Denver. The Sandy Carson show was a good introductory course.

Unstitched: A Voyeur's Idiom, displayed at weilworks, was both confrontational and beautiful, an outlandish and hard-to-achieve combination. Photographer Jimmy Sellers used his childhood interest in G.I. Joes to create political works that comment on the issues of gays in the military and same-sex marriage. In color and black-and-white digital prints, the macho figures were posed in various evocative situations; some involved violence, others eroticism. The G.I. Joes so resembled real men that many viewers had a hard time figuring out what was and wasn't real. Taking beefcake shots of dolls to further political discussions was very funny -- and very effective.

Susan Goldstein's POLI VESTURE lent the Edge Gallery a creepy, haunted-house mood last spring -- not surprising, considering that Goldstein's photos were shot in an abandoned factory where religious articles were once produced. The title of the show was taken from the name of the factory, which was located in Pittsburgh. Goldstein captured the broken crucifixes and headless saints under dim lights. In the context of the factory's wrecked infrastructure, with abandoned machinery glimpsed in the background, the photos had an ironic quality, but they also seemed strangely pious.

Under the direction of Gwen Chanzit, a professor at the University of Denver and a curator at the Denver Art Museum, a group of DU students organized IN LIMBO, a terrific show at the school's Victoria H. Myhren Gallery. The exhibition featured works generously loaned by big-time local art collectors Vicki and Kent Logan. The students used computers to view digital images of the Logan Collection at the DAM, as well as the Logans' private hoard. They then made their final selections, researched the chosen artists, produced an exhibition design and had a catalogue published. The finished product took a lot of hard work to produce -- and was a lot of fun to look at.

The West has inspired artists for over a century, and LoDo's David Cook Fine Art is one of the best places in Denver to check out some of the genre's older creations. The gallery rarely presents exhibits, so The Painter's Eye, on display last summer, was an unusual treat. The show included pieces by artists who worked in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California. A bonus was the in-depth display of pieces by local master Charles Partridge Adams, an impressionist who worked in the early twentieth century. It was a great way to enjoy the mountains without having to leave town.

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