David Zimmer was one of the hot art kids in Denver ten years ago, but he moved away, and it was out of sight, out of mind. Nowhere, at Artyard, was his first solo in town in nine years, and it reminded everyone why he'd earned the early local fame. The genuine standouts were his newer pieces: miniature tabletop compositions, some with tiny LCD monitors complete with picture and soundtrack.
The two-story space at Walker Fine Art was the perfect setting for Bonny Lhotka's digital photo enlargements, which were part of a group effort titled Illusions. Lhotka, who has a substantial exhibition record, is an experimental photo artist who uses novel techniques, such as lenticular photography (different images flip into focus as the vantage point changes), and odd materials, including metal and ultraviolet-cured inks. Lhotka's compositions, jammed with images and drenched in colors, were absolutely beautiful -- especially those of goldfish.
Most of the photographers in Early Colorado Contemporary Photography at Gallery Sink were fairly obscure -- but they shouldn't be. This show provided a good start at turning that around. Jim Milmoe, whose career in the area dates back fifty years, organized the show, and he included some of his own work along with that of five contemporaries: Walter Chappell, Arnold Gassan, Syl Labrot, Nile Root and Winter Prather. The five comprised a group of kindred modernists who explored vanguard ideas a generation ago. But their photos looked just as fresh in Gallery Sink as they did when they were taken.
Pastels seem like an unlikely material for an artist seeking photographic realism, but that's exactly what Riva Sweetrocket uses. Her drawing style is neo-pop, and she gives more than a little tip of the hat to the great artists of the '60s in her work. The large-format drawings displayed in her solo exhibit at the Arvada Center, Testify, are both exquisitely crafted and thoughtfully conceived. At Arvada and elsewhere, Sweetrocket's crisply rendered and imaginatively composed drawings are incredible achievements.
In the mid-twentieth century, a loose-knit group of New Mexico artists embraced the international transcendentalist movement and began putting spiritual references into their paintings. They depicted the sights of the Land of Enchantment with geometric and organic shapes and bright colors. Artist Warren Kelly grew up in Taos and adopted the style of this school. Original + Digital at Pirate: A Contemporary Art Oasis included two of his paintings, which were stunning in their own right, but it was his modern take on the old style -- boldly colored neo-transcendentalist digital prints -- that really made this show stand out.
Good evidence that Spark Galley is a center for ceramics was the microCOSMIC exhibit, a handsome solo devoted to the nature-based abstractions of Katie Martineau-Caron. Seeds, pods, plants and even viruses inspire her sculptures' shapes, and she tries to emulate the colors and textures of the outdoors with her richly toned and multi-dimensional glazes. MicroCOSMIC proved that Martineau-Caron is among the best ceramic artists in town.
Summer Group Exhibition was clearly thrown together at the last minute, but gallery director Robin Rule is such a pro that it was still excellent. Just by pulling stuff from storage, she was able to present a variety pack that rivaled the MCA's biennial. Summer Group Exhibition brought together several generations of Denver artists, from old-timers such as Dale Chisman, Clark Richert and Andy Libertone, who started their careers in the '60s, to newcomers such as Jason Patz, who wasn't even born until the 1980s. Filling the gap were mid-career talents Jeff Starr and Mary Ehrin. This generational inclusiveness was the best part of the show; it demonstrated that Denver's contemporary art world has legs and roots. As does Rule, who closed the Broadway gallery but will be back.
Andy Miller specializes in ambitious installations, but for his show at + Gallery, he opted for geometric wall-hung sculptures. Braille adorned each of the new pieces, and the simple shapes Miller used were meant to be icons expressing the sentiments of the Braille statements, which he translated as relating to the meaning of life. Andy Miller is unquestionably creative and one of the best contemporary artists in the area. It's almost unbelievable that this was his first exhibition in a commercial gallery.
Bryan Andrews and Joe Riche share studio space and both sculpt, but that's where the comparison ends. Andrews carves wood; Riche welds metal. Nonetheless, their work looks great together in their paired solos at the Arvada Center. Andrews's show, Auditioning Gods, continues his "fetem" series of carved wooden sculptures that reconciles folk and modern art. Riche's the good times are killing me is a showcase of his kinetic sculptures.
Husband-and-wife painters Tracy and Sushe Felix have been exhibiting their work in tandem for years, so it was really interesting that the William Havu Gallery scheduled them in separate, back-to-back presentations. They were both influenced by the art history of Colorado and New Mexico, but their styles are very different: Tracy turns the mountains into a Jellystone Park fantasyland, while Sushe uses elements found in the landscape to construct swirling abstractions. Their pieces are great together, but it was nice to see them separately, too.

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