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.
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.

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