BEST RUNNING START TO A SUCCESSFUL ART CAREER

Jenny Morgan

Though not long out of art school, Jenny Morgan already has distinctions piling up. In the past year, the twenty-something painter has had two solos: First Person at + and Mine Not Yours at Pirate: A Contemporary Art Oasis. In addition, the Fine Arts Museum of Key West acquired one of her pieces, and the juried catalogue New American Paintings included her work alongside some of the hottest talents in the country. And just a couple of weeks ago, one of Morgan's enigmatic self-portraits was selected for inclusion in an important Smithsonian-sponsored portrait show. Not a bad start to her career.
When Hugh Grant, director of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, realized that William Sanderson's 100th birthday was going to come and go without an exhibit, he stepped in and presented a retrospective of the artist. It was the first-ever temporary show in the Kirkland's history, and Sanderson was a fitting subject for the honor. Co-curated by Grant and Michael Sanderson, the artist's son, the show examined the career of one of Denver's greatest artists of the '40s and '50s. His style had a cartoonish quality that referred to cubism, and when the art tides changed in the '60s, Sanderson was forgotten. His career was reborn in the '80s -- not because he changed with the trends, but because certain art styles had finally come back around. Sanderson may be dead, but his legacy lives on, thanks to The Centennial of William Sanderson.
The subject of Shooting Star at the Vida Ellison Gallery in the Denver Central Library was painter Frank Mechau, who was born in Colorado in 1904. He left for Paris in the 1920s, and when he returned in the 1930s, modernism was among the many souvenirs he brought back with him. Shooting Star -- organized by Kay Wisnia, the DPL's gifted special-collections librarian for art -- revealed how Mechau carried out regionalist subjects in an abstract manner, thus successfully combining modernism with the down-home American scene. Mechau got a lot of mileage out of the formula during his short career. He died at age 44, but that was long enough for him to establish himself as one of the best Colorado artists ever.
LoDo's David Cook Fine Art has cornered the market on Western landscapes, whether done in the impressionist style of the early twentieth century or the early-modernist style of the mid-century. Both types were displayed last summer in Colorado and the West, a show that included more than 100 prints, watercolors and paintings by some of the region's most respected artists. Cook is particularly good at unearthing pieces associated with art institutions, including Denver's Chappell House and Colorado Springs' Broadmoor Academy, both of which are long closed. This was easily one of the year's best shows.
Typically when a gallery presents different shows at the same time, there's nothing that connects them. That's not the case with Don Stinson, Kevin O'Connell and David Sharpe, a trio of exhibits at Robischon Gallery that are supplemented with pieces by Eric Paddock and Chuck Forsman. Each artist is great in his own right, but they are even better together, unified by the Western landscape.
Andy Warhol is still a household name in art and pop culture because he changed the way people thought about many things, from Campbell's Soup to Mao. His power to turn heads and change minds was shown off in the blockbuster Andy Warhol's Dream America at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Ben Mitchell of Wyoming's Nicolaysen Museum curated the exhibit using several of Warhol's complete portfolios that were on loan from the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. Although he was mostly regarded as a kook during his lifetime, it's obvious that Warhol was one of the best artists of his generation.
Rhinoceropolis is a funky little art spot with an outre attitude, as much a crash pad and party house as an art gallery. Last summer it hosted an intriguing solo titled The Next Big Thing that was dedicated to the work of emerging artist Justin Simoni. The show included prints, documented performances and films that illuminated Simoni's Warholian exploration of fame. He did a number of weird things to flesh out his ideas, including covering himself in a suit made from multi-colored posters that featured his mug and the motto "The Next Big Thing." Other times he dressed as his mentor, Warhol. These stunts did not garner Simoni much fame, but they did get him noticed.
Maynard Tischler is a local legend in ceramics. He's taught at the University of Denver for more than forty years and is well known for his pop-art ceramic sculptures, including a dead-on depiction of a box of books from nearly a half-century ago. That piece directly anticipated some of his recent creations, such as a pile of unbelievably real-looking garden tools. These newer pieces made up the bulk of his last solo, Maynard Tischler, at the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery on the University of Denver campus, but there were also a few anchor pieces from the 1960s. In addition to ceramics, Tischler excels in vessel-making, working in both traditional styles and his own cubistic designs. So he's not only one of the best ceramic sculptors in the region, but one of the best potters, too.
The Dale Chisman solo at Rule Gallery was partly devoted to Chisman's work from the 1970s in New York, and partly given over to recent paintings done here in his Denver studio. It's striking how consistent his aesthetic has been. Both types featured simple palettes of strong colors and had all the tricks of the abstract trade, including smudges, drips, runs and scribbles. Chisman's stick-to-it-iveness and his remarkable consistency are two qualities that make him one of Denver's best artists.
Longtime alternative-scene habitue David Seiler went off to the Bemis Art Center to work, and the results of his efforts were put on display at Studio Aiello last fall. Step Right Up! was one of the last outings at the now-closed exhibition venue, and it was a fitting sendoff. Seiler installed a conventional show up front, but in the back space he created the inside of a big circus tent. The effect was creepy, which provided the perfect setting for the equally creepy carnie games he placed around the room.

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