Guerilla Garden ain't no bunch of tag-bangers. The crew is Denver's unofficial graffiti-advocacy organization, and its members are some of the city's top graffers, including Jher, Jolt, Voice, Crims, Koze and Emit. Since forming in 2005, they've worked with several programs that promote graffiti as an artistic endeavor -- not a facet of thug life -- and have become a conduit for underground muralists to break into art galleries. If one of these guys (or their followers) deigns to hit your garage, it's because you're paying them cash money to do so.
The Magnet Mafia not only has a cool name -- who wouldn't want to join that family? -- but it's also serious about underground art. Dead serious. The Mafiosi create art on -- wait for it -- magnets, then stick them up around town. Find one, take it home and throw it up on the fridge. Plus, the mobsters will teach you to make your own moveable art. How inspired.
"Denver Monoliths," the enormous abstract sculpture in front of the Denver Art Museum's outrageous Frederic C. Hamilton Building, looks like the Flintstones meeting the Jetsons. The primitive forms of Beverly Pepper's charcoal-gray concrete sculpture provide a mighty contrast to the futuristic zigzags of Daniel Libeskind's shimmering silver building. An interesting fact in Pepper's bio is her age: The international art-world hipster is in her eighties! That's yet another reason her piece is one of the best things to see in this otherwise Real World kind of town.
Every project built with city money must set aside 1 percent for public art. In the case of the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building, the city-funded piece is Tatsuo Miyajima's "ENGI," located in the El Pomar Grand Atrium. It's a conceptual installation made up of eighty LED displays embedded into the diagonal walls of the vertiginous space. "ENGI" conveys different perspectives on the passage of time by having the numbers one through nine flash on the screens at different rates. The resulting LEDs look like twinkling sequins, providing the perfect final touch for the spartanly detailed atrium.
Aurora, like Denver, has a 1-percent-for-art program, and among the city's most recent commissions is David Mazza's "Kawil," which is situated on the lawn of the Aurora Fire Department's station #5. "Kawil" is done in the young artist's signature neo-modernist style, with angled steel rods forming an abstract composition. The piece is named for the Mayan god of lightning and fire, and the shape and color fire-engine red -- definitely fit the moniker. "Kawil" may be in Aurora, but it would be among the best even in the middle of downtown Denver.
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.

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