Best Design Show — Group 2008 | Substance: Diverse Practices From the Periphery Metro State Center for Visual Art | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Luxury goods usually dominate design exhibitions, but there are also design items meant to solve social problems. This is what Metro professor Lisa Abendroth gathered together to pull off the thoughtful Substance: Diverse Practices From the Periphery at the Center for Visual Art. The show was divided into sections called Access, Community, Education, Wellness and Shelter (which included an inflatable plastic tent for the homeless). The pieces were predictably functionalist, and therefore doctrinaire modernist in style. But this modern bent was the best part of the show, because it meant that everything was beautiful, even if that wasn't what the designers had in mind.
The late Charles Eames and his second wife, Ray, created furniture classics in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, seemingly hand over fist. Many, like their plywood-and-leather lounge chair and ottoman, are still being made. Eames's granddaughter, Carla Hartman, who lives in Denver, has collected his work for decades and has special access to the still-running Eames Office in Los Angeles. For this show, laid out by Shannon Corrigan, Hartman assembled pieces from her own collection supplemented by those from the office's archive. Interestingly, some of the best things were the one-off structural experiments for chair legs done in metal and wood.
Rachel Corrie has been a lighting rod for controversy since her death in Gaza at the age of 23, when she was run over by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer while attempting to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. And My Name Is Rachel Corrie has proved controversial, too. The play was too hot for the New York Theatre Workshop, which originally planned a presentation in 2006, then postponed it indefinitely. But Denver audiences were able to see it last fall, thanks to Countdown to Zero, Brian Freeland's new company that intends to stage nine more significant works before disbanding. The house was packed almost every night, and Rachel Corrie's parents even came to Denver for two performances, including one that was followed by a panel on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Eric Gruneisen
Save for the jukebox and TVs, the Brown Barrel looks like it hasn't changed since the '60s. Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? It's easy to walk past this joint; the exterior is about as nondescript as a plainclothes policeman at a dad convention. And it's even easier to miss at night, since it can close as early as 11 p.m. depending on how busy it is. But if you're an early-morning drinker and need a mug of Landshark Lager instead of a cuppa joe, the Brown Barrel's the place for you — especially on Sundays, when happy hour runs from 8 a.m. to noon.
Anyone can look at art on First Friday. But it takes a dreamer like sculptor and multi-media artist Marie Ev.B Gibbons to understand that some people might prefer to make art, which is why on every First Friday, passersby and art lookie-loos can create their very own miniature ceramic masterpieces at her place. March's project was tiny clocks; past Mini-Shops have featured spring bulbs, baby faces, birds, bugs and more. Participants use molds to form the clay, which Gibbons fires in her kiln; the finished products are ready to pick up after about a week. The cost of each Mini-Shop is $10 — and the feeling that you've created something special with your own two hands? Priceless.
There's certainly no shortage of shows where it's perfectly acceptable to show up fashionably late, just in time to catch the headliners. But anyone who did this in September, when the LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire tour stopped by Red Rocks, really blew it, since both of these acts are worthy of headlining. After a vigorous set of pulse-pounding tracks from LCD that mesmerized the enthusiastic crowd, Arcade Fire took the stage and proceeded to all but burn the place to the ground with the sweeping grandeur of its majestic chamber folk.
Kent Haruf's Plainsong won critical acclaim for its quiet beauty, and Eric Schmiedl's stage adaptation — miraculously — comes close to doing the novel justice. This isn't one of those theater pieces that wows you on the spot; instead, Plainsong stays with you, settling slowly into your consciousness until it becomes part of the way you see the world. This is largely because of Schmiedl's fidelity to the novel; he keeps much of Haruf's writing, the rhythm of the prose providing a steady pulse beneath the action. As a result, the plot has less to do with forward movement than with a kind of inexorable unfolding that makes you feel as if you are watching a moving, living frieze.
While working at Rocky Mountain Recorders, Andrew Vastola has been up to his elbows in some of Denver's best records. As engineer, producer or mastering pro, the studio wunderkind put his magic hands on some of our favorite discs by the Photo Atlas, Born in the Flood, Laylights, Hearts of Palm, the Wheel and many others. It's the upcoming Swayback record, though, that really cements Vastola as a production juggernaut. Though three of the tracks on Long Gone Lads also appeared on the Forewarned EP, Vastola not only managed to make them sound better this time around, but he also got superior performances out of the band. Rocking on the other side of the glass, it looks like Vastola can't miss.
While we all knew it was coming, few of us had actually braced for the inevitable crash when Planes Mistaken for Stars finally went down. And as we watched one of Denver's truly great bands disintegrate in midair, it was difficult to shake the feeling of utter helplessness. Whoever said that all good things must come to an end must've been an eternal optimist — or a complete dipshit. Even so, we're grateful that we were on hand to pay our last respects and see Gared O'Donnell and company give it their absolute all over the course of nearly two dozen songs.
Last spring, Jason Bosch e-mailed a visual missive to friends and supporters. "ArgusFest R.I.P.?" it queried over the photo of a distraught towheaded boy who embodied Bosch's own inner feelings about his grassroots human-rights film series. The message was not just a plea for attention — and maybe even donations — but also a declaration by Bosch that he plans to move ArgusFest in new, bigger directions, by finding a place where it can stay put. And we're all for that, because as it is, every week Bosch faithfully lugs his projector between Hooked on Colfax and the Mercury Cafe, bringing rarely seen topical films and documentaries to eager audiences. Bosch earned a Westword MasterMind award this year; a permanent home would help him take the best film festival in town to the next level. Micro-cinema or bust!

Best Of Denver®

Best Of