Best Contemporary-Realist Show — Drawing 2014 | Roots — New Drawings by Heidi Jung | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

The prime challenge for a representational artist working in the contemporary-art arena is to come up with something that looks new. And since artists have been mining realism since the days of the cave painters, that's not so easy to do...which made the handsome and tastefully installed Roots — New Drawings by Heidi Jung a show to remember. Jung zeroed in on the roots and shafts of plants, which she rendered with staggering accuracy in charcoal and ink on architectural vellum. The vellum was laid on birch panels, making frames unnecessary. Jung's drawing style is elegant, with the tangled complexity of the roots and shafts set against the bareness of the surrounding blank vellum in just the right combination. Despite being examples of straightforward realism, depicting dead plants, no less, Jung's drawings somehow looked utterly fresh.

MCA Denver

Canadian-born Denver artist Ian Fisher has an interesting strategy for picture-making: Create photo-realist paintings of the sky unmoored from the landscape. For Critical Focus: Ian Fisher — which is still open — MCA curator Nora Burnett Abrams took an in-depth look at the artist's recent cloud paintings. Despite Fisher's careful realism, there's an undeniable abstract quality to the compositions, and at times they seem to almost melt into color-field territory. Though each depicts the same subject, every canvas is different and has its own unique palette — just like the clouds.

Crafting mavens Becky Hensley of Denver Craft Ninjas and Anne Davidson of the Colorado Bead Company got together last year to create a haven where crafters of all skill levels can share ideas and techniques or just work together side by side. The huge Park Hill facility offers a dizzying selection of classes that cover not only a cornucopia of crafting skills, but also such market-savvy subjects as "Etsy for Newbies" and "Crafting Your Blog Pitch." Share Denver's DIY spirit makes it a go-to for all crafters, whether they're hobbyists or looking to craft a living out of making things by hand.

Do you feel a need to dance in the dark with strange people, to music your parents don't understand? According to Rolling Stone, Beta is the best place in America to do it. Beta's immense reputation and even bigger sound system draw some of the greatest electronic musicians from around the world. In addition to the main stage, there's the Beatport Lounge, an intimate club-within-a-club where you'll often find local DJs spinning their own brand of dance music. Beta is a LoDo fixture, and it's a large part of what keeps late-night thrill-seekers coming back to the neighborhood.

What started out as Rave on the Rocks has transformed into the biggest dance-music festival in the region. Global Dance Festival has pushed the boundaries of the genre in past years with headliners like Empire of the Sun, Kid Cudi and LMFAO, but festival promoter Triad Dragons Entertainment remains dedicated to its EDM roots. Global stages are packed with the biggest dance acts in the world, many of whom are making their first appearance in the Denver market. All dance styles are represented at the equal-opportunity festival, from chill downtempo to feverishly upbeat drum-and-bass, and they'll have you on your feet well into the night.

Last year's Decadence was the largest indoor EDM event in North America, with an attendance of nearly 40,000, and it happened right here. Colorado favorites Bassnectar and Pretty Lights headlined alongside Tiësto and Above & Beyond — and those were just a few of the acts to grace the stages of the Colorado Convention Center. Decadence has listened to the concerns of fans over the years and now offers free water stations and organized ticket lines. And the production features much more than just the DJs, with confetti cannons, balloon drops, lasers and panels upon panels of mapped LEDs.

Brandon Marshall

Art collecting can be a tricky business, one that requires a shrewd eye, knowing what you like and a knack for telling the future. The CSArt Colorado project replaces that trickiness with a treat. It invites "shareholders" to join for a $400 annual membership; in return, they receive a selection of five diverse works twice a year, drawn from a pool of twenty participating artists, both established and emerging. Shareholders choose from two ten-artist packages offered each year; 2014's first distribution event will be an outdoor party at the Denver Botanic Gardens in May, while BMoCA will host a second distribution and reception in the fall. It's the way to go if you like art — and surprises.

Last year, octogenarian Roland Bernier attempted to retire by mounting The Last Picture Show at Walker Fine Art. But it was not to be, as Bernier is still working. Moreover, his pieces are still being shown around town. For this attempt at retiring, though, Bernier created an array of pieces, all of which were covered with facsimiles of his last name. In one series, he covered women's high-heel shoes in paper emblazoned with his name. In a group of wall-hung pieces, "Bernier" was carried out in plastic mirrors laser-cut to form the letters. Bernier's been at it for sixty years, making it high time for him to be given a proper retrospective — before he really does quit for good.

Plus Gallery's Ivar Zeile and digital artist Ryan Pattie brought a different kind of spectacle and a feel for the future to the streets of downtown Denver last summer when, with help from the Denver Theatre District, they presented Denver Digerati, a series of curated motion-based artwork on the DTD's jumbo second-story LED billboard at 14th and Champa streets. The five programs changed focus each month by featuring works, sometimes on a theme, from a local and/or international pool of artists, ending with a presentation of works commissioned from seven artists by the DTD for its permanent collection. A gallery showcase by the artists coincided at Plus, and all seven received stipends, which smoothed the road for their contributions. We're looking forward to seeing what this season brings to Denver Digerati's big screen.

Denver Disco has gathered the previously disconnected nu-disco scene in Denver at a weekly night featuring some of the genre's best acts. The synths of yesteryear, pumped up with some modern-day bells and whistles, are still getting people out on the dance floor — and then some. Bar Standard, the host venue for Denver Disco's weekly event, creates the perfect party ambience, with a wall-sized mirror, a VIP area behind the stage, and a 360-degree bar for serving drinks all around. Who says disco's dead?

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