Eco-devo and the arts usually go together like drinking and driving. So many artists thought it was just crazy talk last year when the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs announced it was creating a position that would help artists -- not just big-box retailers -- access economic opportunity. Ginger White accepted the challenge of becoming the city's arts eco-devo specialist, but instead of careening off like a drunk, she's been Dale Earnhardt (and not Jr.), smoothly rounding difficult corners on her way to enriching the local arts scene. Although that doesn't mean she's got cash to throw around, she's finding ways to help artists work through the zoning process, access city loans and maneuver other roadblocks inherent in the city government/artist relationship.
Starving artists hate that rich people run the show simply by throwing their money around, but thank goodness Kent and Vicki Logan spread the wealth. The couple is giving the Denver Art Museum a $10 million endowment for the modern and contemporary department, more than 300 artworks from their personal stash (added to the more than 200 they have already donated), and their Vail home and private art museum, plus another $5 million for maintenance of the property. The Logans have been generous to our community before, but this is the best thing they've ever done.
Lisbeth Neergaard Kohloff and her husband, Skip Kohloff, retired from the board of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center last year, giving up their posts as the tag team that ran the place. The Kohloffs got involved with CPAC back in the '80s and have been the backbone of the institution. Over the years, they promoted innumerable local careers and put together a star-studded roster of exhibits that featured some of the most famous photographers in the West. It's safe to say the Kohloffs are two of the best when it comes to making Denver's art world tick.
The scope of the Museum of Contemporary Art's third biennial, 2005 BIENNIAL BLOW OUT, was expanded to include artists from beyond Colorado's borders. Denver dominated the show anyway, with six of celebrity juror Kenny Schachter's ten final selections living in town. This show is one of the most difficult to get into, so each of our artists -- Louisa Armbrust, Patti Hallock, Susan Meyer, Jason Patz, David Sharpe and Jeff Starr -- deserves a gold star and a huge helping of respect.
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Last spring and summer, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center was dominated by Chihuly, an over-the-top extravaganza that highlighted the career of Dale Chihuly. The survey began with some of the glass master's oldest pieces, from the 1970s, and ended with several hot-from-the-furnaces items. Michael De Marsche, president of the Fine Arts Center, orchestrated the exhibit, which ended up being the biggest hit in the institution's seventy-year history, attracting more than 80,000 visitors. De Marsche knows how to play to a crowd, and he announced earlier this year that the CSFAC plans to acquire many of the pieces that were on display in Chihuly.
Amish women from the turn of the last century didn't intend for their quilts to be works of modern art, but that's exactly what happened, as evidenced by last year's Amish Quilts exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. The quilts look much like the minimalist paintings done much later, but the Amish were guided not by aesthetics -- as the minimalists were -- but by a religious philosophy that called for plainness. They preferred solid colors in dark shades and fine dressmaking wool and fancy polished cotton, which turned the quilts into bold geometric compositions. DAM textile curator Alice Zrebiec put the show together using quilts loaned by Faith and Stephen Brown. Zrebiec's best decision was displaying the quilts as paintings.
Denver painter Bruce Price created a batch of fabulous pieces for FULL: New Paintings by Bruce Price, his solo at + Gallery last fall. Though the work was clearly a continuation of past efforts, the paintings were also completely new-looking. Even though Price is a protege of the great Clark Richert, he's interested in theories of decoration and ornamentation, which Richert dismisses. Price lays patterns next to one another so that they seem to collide or overlap, creating an almost 3-D appearance even though the surfaces are flat.
Big-name modernist Jules Olitski got famous in the '60s with color-field paintings. A refinement of abstract expressionism and the softer side of minimalism, color-field pieces are covered in big, unbroken swaths of color. Though many painters still do this kind of thing, Olitski left the style decades ago. Since then, he's experimented wildly. His most radical turn was the crude yet luxuriously finished landscapes shown at Sandy Carson Gallery in Jules Olitski. They were primitive, elegant and maybe even sophisticated. Gallery director William Biety is a friend of Olitski's, so some of the best work in the show was taken directly from the master's studio.
For the color channel, Steven Read lined up old television sets at even intervals on the floor of Capsule gallery. High up on the walls, Read mounted tabletop antennae, which gathered UHF waves and transmitted them to the television sets. Read wrote a software program to comprehend the signals and then convert them from television programs to ever-changing geometric compositions. The resulting images were made up of squares, rectangles and lines -- though sometimes Cops and other shows were visible underneath. Read's cleverness made the color channel the best debut by an emerging artist in Denver in memory.
The fifth-anniversary show at Space Gallery was aptly titled Untold Riches, considering the marvelous paintings contributed by the inexplicably unknown artist Ryan Anderson. Anderson originally trained as a ceramics artist and was serious enough to snag a stint at Montana's prestigious Archie Bray Foundation. He's moved on to painting, but his current pieces reference those earlier efforts. The surfaces have a glaze-like quality that looks as if it came straight from the kiln, though Anderson actually creates the effect by pouring flamboyantly colored automotive lacquers onto wooden panels. The results are some of the best paintings most have never seen.

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