Not many film screenings come with syringes full of human blood. But that's the sort of thing that makes "BloodThirsty Theresa" Mercado's seasonal horror-film series at Crash 45 so special. The impeccably curated films, which show on the first Tuesday of the month and are grouped into Cruel Autumn, Cruel Winter and Cruel Summer, run the horror gamut — from classics like 1974's Texas Chainsaw Massacre to more obscure flicks like the ridiculous alien-abduction movie Xtro to Kathryn Bigelow's vampire tale Near Dark (when those syringes were handed out). Mercado creates handmade souvenirs tailored to each free screening, and the bar concocts movie-themed drink specials to enjoy along with the scares.
For Western not Western, Bill Havu and his assistant, Nick Ryan, surveyed the many artists in the gallery's stable to find pieces that use Western-art vocabularies but aren't traditionally Western in style. They included straightforward realists like Jeff Aeling, James Cook and Rick Dula, as well as Tracy Felix, Sushe Felix and Tony Ortega, all of whom pick up Western subjects and then push them through their own individual sensibilities. There were even artists who do abstracted landscapes, among them Sam Scott, Lui Ferreyra and Jeremy Hillhouse, and two, Emilio Lobato and Nancy Lovendahl, who do pure abstractions. The show was right on time, because contemporary art with a Western twang is currently a hot topic.
Contemporary-realist painter Don Stinson depicts intrusions on nature, using the Western landscape in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to make his point. Often he'll include a derelict drive-in theater or some other abandoned symbol of modernity that he finds amid the breathtaking vistas. In this show, the title painting included a weathered motel sign alone on the plains, with the motel itself long gone. In a twist on this program of finding ruins in the garden, Stinson has also depicted works of art by others, rendering the famous "Spiral Jetty," by Robert Smithson, in the Great Salt Lake, and depicting the landmark Colorado home in "Sculptured House," by Charles Deaton, at dawn. The landscape is Colorado art's claim to fame, and artists like Stinson are keeping it contemporary.
The Robischon Gallery is so big that it's easy for co-directors Jim Robischon and Jennifer Doran to mount large and impressive group shows in which each artist is given his or her own spacious berth. And not incidentally, they also have the curatorial talent to be ambitious. That was surely the case with Out of Line, in which an overarching, unified vision of contemporary abstraction was achieved through the sum of its individual artist parts, including mostly conceptual abstract pieces by Jason Karolak, Wendi Harford, Ted Larsen, Derrick Velasquez, Kate Petley, Annica Cuppetelli + Cristobal Mendoza, and Bernar Venet. The results were spectacular, and by mixing up nationally known artists with prominent locals, Robischon and Doran showed how good the hometown team really is.
An old saying advises that if you fall off a horse, you get back on, but what if it's a ladder? Back in 2011, Colorado artist Ania Gola-Kumor fell off a ladder while painting — her kitchen ceiling, not one of her sumptuous abstract canvases — and was so seriously injured that she had to give up painting for a year to recover. When she started again, she went slowly, doing small works on paper. But it was immediately apparent that she wasn't out of practice, and she soon began creating her large signature paintings again. Ania Gola-Kumor: Moving Paint marked her triumphant return.
Denver's gay scene has no shortage of drama: It seems like every time we look up, somebody is boycotting one gay bar or another. Take a time-out at the Barker Lounge, where the staff is friendly, the regulars are always happy to strike up a conversation, the drinks are cheap, and you can even bring your dog. While this bar might not be the best cruising ground, it's a comfortable spot for LGBTQ people of all ages and desires to hang out in a drama-free zone. Some nights are quiet, with just a few people chatting at the bar or shooting pool; other nights you might find a pantsless dart tournament or a dancing crowd of queens with yapping dogs.
The Catamounts' productions not only provide food for thought, but occasional feasts after certain Saturday-night shows, when a truck rolls up to the Dairy Center for the Arts and attendees line up for a plateful of food inspired by the play they've just attended. There's also beer — again, brewed specifically to mesh with the evening's theme. For example, after There Is a Happiness That Morning Is, the Heirloom food truck served a lamb-and-fig tagine over saffron couscous, accompanied by a fig-and-fennel saison brewed by Wild Woods Brewery. Tickets to these feasts are hard to come by; we're sure the Catamounts would like to feed everyone after every performance, if they could just figure out how to finance it.
Every Sunday morning, DJ Ginger Perry sets up shop at Table 6 for a breakfast that could double as a dance party. Discerning diners can enjoy their Hollandaise with a side of hip-hop, their biscuits with boom-baps and beats — and their Bloody Marys with, well, another round. Nothing says "hangover cure" like good food, good drinks and grooving tunes.
With a name inspired by a late-'70s hip-hop group from the Bronx, Cold Crush opened on Upper Larimer last May and immediately became part funky lounge and part artist haven. Most nights of the week, DJs spin all manner of hip-hop, funk and soul, and occasional guest musicians stop by to test out the Crush's killer sound system. The hip bar serves up shots of the wheatgrass and ginger varieties for teetotaling rockers, but it also boasts an extensive wine-and-beer list.