There's something downright lovable about the "Scottish Angus Cow and Calf," the massive bovine bronzes that reside on the south side of the new Hamilton Building. They're not as obvious as "Big Sweep," the giant ode to housekeeping at the museum's entrance -- but that's half the fun. The cow and calf seem happy grazing far from the limelight, as if there's nothing they'd prefer to do than lounge unobtrusively on the grass and let little kids scramble all over their hides. Their gentle, organic presence is the perfect complement to the hard lines of Daniel Libeskind's architecture -- and a stylistic reminder that Denver will always be the cowtown we love.
Denver artist Patrick Marold makes pieces that address environmental issues, and his latest, "The Windmill Project," in Vail, is staggeringly large, with 2,700 separate elements. Each of those comprises a ten-foot tall transparent tube, which houses a light and is topped by three rotating prongs that terminate in hollow half-spheres. As the "windmills" catch the breeze with their cups, they power the lights. This ambitious sculpture, installed on the hillside above the seventeenth green at the Vail Golf Course, is temporary and will be gone with the wind come Earth Day, April 22.

Best Museum Exhibit (Since March 2006)

RADAR

Denver Art Museum
Courtesy Denver Art Museum
The blockbuster RADAR: Selections From the Collection of Kent & Vicki Logan represents a conflation of art-related events. It's the largest of the three special exhibitions at the Denver Art Museum presented to coincide with the opening of the new Frederic C. Hamilton Building. It showcases the collection put together by Vail collectors Vicki and Kent Logan, who are among the DAM's largest donors ever, and it's the retirement swan song of Dianne Vanderlip, founding curator of the Modern and Contemporary department. But beyond all this interesting background, the show includes major works by some of the biggest names in international art, among them Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst, Kiki Smith, George Condo and Fred Tomaselli. RADAR will stay on Denver's cultural screens through July 15.
It was 29 years ago that Dianne Vanderlip came to the Denver Art Museum to start a contemporary art department. In the intervening decades some contemporary aged into modern, so Vanderlip's charge expanded to overseeing what is now the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. As early as last summer, it was an open secret that she would be leaving, but Vanderlip officially retired in January. During her reign, she was omnipotent in Denver's contemporary art scene, and even though she was criticized for not doing enough for local art, she purchased hundreds of pieces by Colorado artists for the museum's collection. Her replacement, Christoph Heinrich, will never have the power she wielded, because the Denver art world is so much bigger now -- in no small part because of what Vanderlip wrought.
Last fall, Ivar Zeile's + Gallery mounted the imaginative COLIN LIVINGSTON: Palettes, Patterns, Logos and Slogans, in which potential collectors were invited to come up with their own compositions by selecting from a menu of -- you guessed it -- palettes, patterns, logos and slogans. Livingston offered several hypothetical combinations at the show, giving patrons ideas on how to help him create one of his signature post-pop paintings. By offering these made-to-order works, Livingston posed questions about the nature of art-making, art collecting and, in the process, art itself.
Co-ops typically present solos by their members, featuring group shows only when a time slot accidentally opens up. Such an unexpected opportunity presented itself last spring, and Edge member Mark Brasuell came up with Directions in Abstraction off the top of his head. He included his own work and that of four others -- Dale Chisman, Clark Richert, Bruce Price and Karen McClanahan -- to explore new approaches in abstraction. Brasuell and Chisman focused on abstract expressionism while Richert looked at geometric abstraction, and his former students, Price and McClanahan, did post-minimalism. Though each person was represented by a single piece, it was a good start to a survey of the best abstraction being done here.
Yoshitomo Saito moved to Denver just last summer, and he's already had a solo at one of the city's top galleries. That's quite a feat, but 108 Blue Cranes was unbelievably ambitious and stunningly serene. The exhibition was something of a retrospective, covering the past twenty years that the Tokyo-born artist has spent in America. Saito's subjects -- wood, cardboard and canvas -- are so simple that they make his pieces look minimalist, but they're actually quite realistic. Saito is a great new addition to the scene and can be considered one of the city's best artists.
David Cook Galleries
Every summer, David Cook Fine Art presents a handsome historic survey of art from the region. It's always one of the finest exhibits of the year, and Colorado & the West was no exception. Then again, since Cook snags first-rate material from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it would be hard not to come up with something great. This year, many of the paintings and prints in the show were associated with the long-gone Broadmoor Academy in Colorado Springs, and they came from a variety of sources, including a large private collection the gallery acquired. This is how the West is won.
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Colorado artists began embracing abstraction in the 1930s, and by the late '40s and early '50s, it had become a full-blown regional movement. Unfortunately, much of the work has been mostly forgotten. Aiming to correct this oversight, painter and volunteer art historian Tracy Felix put together Colorado Modernism, a handsome and well-thought-out show. It was filled with gorgeous mid-century-modern paintings by the likes of Vance Kirkland, Charles Bunnell, Mary Chenoweth and Al Wynne, along with solos devoted to photographer Jim Milmoe and sculptor Bob Mangold. A trip to Golden to see this tremendous show was the best mini-vacation you could have taken last summer.
In 1966, Boulder was attracting some of the nation's first hippies, many of whom were enrolling in fine-art classes at the University of Colorado. Student studios were then in the Armory, and a group coalesced there, including members Dale Chisman, Clark Richert, John De Andrea, Margaret Neumann and George Woodman. Those hippie-artists went on to write many chapters in Colorado's aesthetic history, including founding Drop City, the artist commune near Trinidad; launching CrissCross, which published a magazine; and opening two co-ops, Boulder's Edge Gallery and Spark Gallery in Denver. The Armory Group was one of the season's best shows, and all Singer director Simon Zalkind had to do was to bring the old crowd back together.

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