Robischon Gallery

Iraqi-born Colorado artist Halim Alkarim is a true virtuoso. He's done gorgeous abstract paintings, stunning installations and, for his Robischon solo, The Witness Archive, hauntingly beautiful portraits in lambda prints on aluminum that are imbued with political content. The son of a critic of Saddam Hussein, Alkarim and his family (including his brother Sami, another gifted Colorado artist) suffered under the regime until they escaped to the United States a few years ago. Although the works in The Witness Archive were based on photos of real people, the resulting pieces look more like examples of digital animation. This is because Alkarim put his models in elaborate latex masks and took the photos using scrims — then retouched the resulting shots. As befits the show's title, these pieces all resonate with the piercing, unblinking eyes of the sitters.

Ironton Studios & Gallery

In Big Lots, a powerful — and beautiful — show, Denver artist Wendi Harford presented a range of stylistic approaches, with works anchored by everything from graffiti-like looping lines to rigid stripes. In fact, the only unifying factor was the size of the pieces, since Harford favored monumental over intimate; her taste in color was notable, too. Harford was a protegé of the late Bev Rosen, her mentor at the University of Denver back in the 1970s, and these pieces very subtly referred to Rosen's work. A longtime artist who's kept a fairly low profile, Harford has typically not shown her work in commercial galleries, but that changed when she recently joined the stable at Robischon. We look forward to seeing more.

%22Untitled%2C%22+by+Al+Wynne%2C+oil+on+canvas.

Guest curators Katherine and Michael McCoy took over the two main exhibition spaces on the first floor of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, transforming them into a history lesson on the development of modern design. Using some spectacular pieces from the Kirkland's permanent collection, the McCoys walked visitors through the twentieth-century. The show began with the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, then moved on to the Bauhaus masters, continuing with their American heirs, such as Charles Eames, and then finally arrived at the Italian geniuses, including Gio Ponti. The entire show was stunningly smart and very sharp-looking, especially the installation that included a graphic design incorporating photo blow-ups of the designers.

To the character of Aldonza, the tavern maid whom Don Quixote mistakes for the Lady Dulcinea, Regan Linton brought a lovely voice and strong acting chops, all animated by an incandescent fire. The scene in which Aldonza is raped by the regulars at the tavern is always ugly, but the way Linton — who's wheelchair-bound — played it will be permanently etched in the memory of those who saw her. Torn from her wheelchair and left limp on the floor, Linton dragged herself back across the stage, inch by painful inch, powered by a terrible rage and an unquenchable instinct to survive.

With last spring's Radio Golf at the Denver Center Theatre Company, director Israel Hicks completed August Wilson's magnificent ten-play cycle, which took audiences on a decade-by-decade journey through the black experience in the United States during the twentieth century. Over the years, Hicks had assembled an extraordinary array of acting talent for these rich, multi-textured productions, and Radio Golf was no exception: The powerful Terrence Riggins played an ambitious, Ivy League-educated real-estate developer; Kim Staunton was his upwardly mobile wife; and the production also featured Charles Weldon and Harvy Blanks. The show was a triumph for Hicks and the Denver Center, and a fitting farewell to one of our greatest playwrights.

Newman Center for the Performing Arts

Not only is the Newman Center a jewel box of a venue, with its three intimate performance spaces and elegant balconied plaza, but it also plays host to one of the finest college concert series nobody ever heard of, thanks to the often adventurous programming of center director Stephen Seifert. In a world where such arts mainstays as dance and baroque music remain hard sells, Seifert fights back by bringing in Pilobolus or the thoroughly different Mile High Voltage Festival, featuring world and avant-garde artists on the Cantaloupe Music label. It's a crapshoot for DU — some acts sell out, while others play to empty houses — but give Seifert a hand for putting a beautiful facility to worthy use. Better yet, buy a ticket and see what it's all about.

Flobots.org Community Center

In the public realm, they go by the names Jonny 5, Brer Rabbit and Andy Rok, but off stage, Flobots Jamie Laurie, Stephen Brackett and Andy Guerrero are looking for ways to put their ideas to work on a more human level. Through their non-profit Flobots.org, the local-rock-band-made-good brings some of the power back to the people by offering at-risk youth a second chance through music therapy; by supporting grassroots activism through workshops and actions instigated by their Fight With Tools Institute; and by providing a physical space in which to get all that good work done, at the Flobots.org headquarters. Like the song goes: "We need heroes/Build them. Don't put your fist up/Fill them/Fight with our hopes and our hearts and our hands/We're the architects of our last stand."

On the audio side, CacheFlowe produces dense, intelligent and profoundly weird music. His style incorporates IDM, glitch, dubstep and hip-hop to create a beat-driven, brain-warping and brilliantly creative sound. Then he adds custom, real-time-generated visuals, synced to and driven by his music via custom software he wrote himself. The result is an incredible audio-visual synthesis that will make you wonder if someone slipped one of those drugs that's known by just initials into your drink when you weren't looking. As it turns out, though, you'll be enjoying yourself so much you won't even care. This simply has to be seen — and heard — to be believed.

How dope are Boonie Mayfield's beats? Consider this: Mr. J. Medeiros from the Procussions sought out Boon Doc (aka Solomon Vaughn) after stumbling across a clip of him rocking his MPC on YouTube one morning. Medeiros ended up working with Boon on his five-song EP, The Art of Broken Glass, and last summer the burgeoning producer pretty much slayed the competition at the Red Bull Big Tune tournament to move on to the finals in Atlanta (where he and runner-up DJ Psycho ended up losing out to Frank Dukes). Besides having nice beats, Boonie is also gracious. At the beginning of the year, he put together a kit for fellow beatmakers to purchase/download that contains over 350 samples of various drums, percussions and effects. It's a pleasure to watch the man work and even more gratifying to listen to his smooth, fluid and always banging beats.

No band could possibly live up to the hype surrounding My Bloody Valentine's landmark recording, 1991's Loveless, in a live setting, but Kevin Shields and company come close. Somehow, their handful of 2009 North American dates included a gig in Denver, and after a rocky start in the house mix, My Bloody Valentine performed a show that was, at times, as much a physical experience as a musical one. And to close out the night, the band assaulted the audience with a cascading avalanche of sound that made clothes flap with the sheer force of the clamor. Denver hearts MBV.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of