The Five Ugliest Sculptures in Denver

Categories: Art

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Dennis Oppenheim's "Light Chamber."

I'm a big fan of public art, and Denver has commissioned some standout pieces over the years that really spiff up the city. But sometimes things go awry when politics and civic bureaucracy meet the art world. While some of the people who serve on selection committees may have artistic qualifications, many more do not. Nor are there qualifications for private entities that wants to erect a piece in a public space.

As the saying goes, "everyone's a critic." Unfortunately, this sentiment reveals how less seriously art is taken than are other aspects of building. Below, in no particular order, are works that have bugged me since I first encountered them -- not only because they are bad but because they represent lost opportunities for something better. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section below.

See also: Five Reasons Why It Would Be Stupid To Demolish Boettcher Concert Hall


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Artist Sharon Feder on Her Show BUY and Finding Nature in Empty Buildings

Categories: Art, Interviews

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Courtesy of BMoCA
Sharon Feder, Cloister, 2014, oil on panel.
Sharon Feder has been painting for as long as she can remember. Along with studying painting under the mentorship of Colorado modernists like Ed Marecak and Mark Zamantakis, Feder also has had decades of technical experience as a set designer, muralist and sign painter. Combined with her passion for urban archeology, Feder's work often captures the modern-day commercial landscape, for better economic times or for worse.

Feder's latest exhibition BUY, now on view at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, is a collection of paintings based on photographs of big-box stores and vacant and empty store signs taken over the last half-decade. Feder recently talked with Westword about this series of suburban retail landscape paintings and what motivates her to capture this part of modern American life.

See also: Chuck Dorsey's Old-School Window Painting Reanimates South Broadway

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Hari and Deepti's Light-Box Stories at Black Book Tomorrow

Categories: Art

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Hari and Deepti
Black Book Gallery will host an opening celebrating Hari and Deepti's work Friday night.
When you walk into the Black Book Gallery for the opening of Oh, The Places You Will Go! on Friday night, the lights will be turned off and the only thing you will see are the fantastical light-boxes of husband-wife duo Hari and Deepti.

See also: Filmmaker Guy Maddin on Cinematic Séances and the Brakhage Symposium

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Harmony Hammond and Tirza True Latimer on Queer Feminist Abstraction

Categories: Art

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Harmony Hammond, Suture
Harmony Hammond has been pushing the limits of abstract painting since the late 1960s.
Art naturally evolved from representation (pictures of things) toward abstraction, argued modernist art critic Clement Greenberg and his fellow formalists. Portraiture and landscape painting be damned: In pure art, paintings do nothing but express their essence as painting. But in the 1960s, painting about painting fell out of style and new forms emerged, feminism and queer art included. Both relied heavily on representation, pop cultural symbols, performance and text to explore political and social issues involving gender and sexuality.

Feminist artist, activist, educator and writer Harmony Hammond has been a queer amongst queers, staying committed to abstract painting from the late 1960s into the present despite the reemergence of symbol-rich art. Her career is the subject of the show Becoming/Unbecoming Monochrome at RedLine, which looks at her weave paintings from the 1970s and puts them in dialogue with some of her current, large-scale works.

See also: Catherine Opie Talks Selfies, AIDS and Her Shift from Representation to Abstraction

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Night Job is the Synthesis of Day-To-Day Grind and Dealing With the Man

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Tom Murphy
Some of the artists of Night Job (left to right): Jamie Knowlton, Heidi Kleder and Kat Salvaggio.

Night Job is a collective show featuring artists who represent a young, working-class, art class perspective united by a sensibility that combines urban grit, an ineffable dream-like quality and an almost haunted yearning for connection with the essence of life. The work also embodies a blend of seeming thematic opposites that complement one another.

The artists include Heidi Kleder, Kit Ramsey, Kat Salvaggio, Jamie Knowlton and Tacoma Washington, and their media range from pen and ink drawings tomixed media painting to Intaglio prints and photographs. Night Job opens at Europa Coffee House at 7 p.m. on September 4 with a free taco bar; it runs through the month. We sat down with Knowlton, who set up the show, Kleder and Salvaggio to discuss what the name represents and why Knowlton wanted to include artists who rarely display their work.


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There's Lots to See at Union Station -- and "Winter Crossing" Could Soon Join the Lineup

Categories: Art

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Courtesy Crawford Hotel
The art at Union Station has been one of the surprise hits of the $54 million renovation project. The building holds more than 600 pieces of art, a collection so extensive that the Crawford Hotel, which fills the upper three floors, has both an electronic and a published guide to the artwork so that you can take your own self-guided tour (pick it up at the Crawford Hotel desk). Sorry, the hotel-room displays are off limits to all but guests (although tours are offered twice a month), but there's still plenty to see in the public areas -- and the people-watching in the Great Hall alone -- billed as "Denver's living room" -- is worth the trip.

"I like to sit there and watch all the people," says developer Dana Crawford, the inspiration behind the hotel's name. "There's just every stripe, and everybody who walks in is having such a good time. If they haven't been there before, their jaws just drop. It just makes me so happy. It's civic theater."

See also:
Photos of the restaurants of Union Station

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Sign Painters Shines A Colorful Light on the History of a Hidden Craft

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signpaintersfilm.com.
Faythe Levine and Sam Macon are the minds behind Sign Painters.

For filmmakers Faythe Levine and Sam Macon, an in sign painting was born one day when Levine happened to observe a sign painter changing the hours on a restaurant's window with a paint brush. Through the film Sign Painters -- which screens for one night only tomorrow evening, August 26, at the Sie FilmCenter -- the collaborators dug deep, interviewing active sign painters of all ages about this everyday occupation and art form. The oral, anecdotal history and visual impact of sign painting on the American landscape are equally explored in this documentary about a once-ubiquitous handmade trade.

In advance of the film's showing, Westword spoke with Macon about how he and Levine tackled the exploration of a craft that has very little written history available.

See also: Kevin Hennessy on making folk art and other signs of the time

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Anne Pasternak on Socially Engaged Art and Making the Change They Want to See

Categories: Activism, Art

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Kara Walker, Dominio Sugar Factory Project
Creative Time's current exhibition is Kara Walker's Dominio Sugar Factory Project.
Today and tomorrow, artists working at the intersection of social justice and the art world will gather at Anderson Ranch outside Aspen to discuss their projects as a part of Making the Change They Want to See. The artists are as varied as Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave; Laurie Jo Reynolds, who used creative organizing strategies to shut down a supermax prison in Illinois; and Mel Chin, who addresses issues of ecological destruction and cultural displacement through collaboration at non-traditional sites: at toxic dumps, on prime-time television and through video games.

To learn more about the event and the state of socially engaged public art, we spoke with Anne Pasternak, the seminar's curator and the president and artistic director of Creative Time, a New York-based public arts organization.

See also: Michael Mayes on Dead Man Walking, Cut and Shoot, Texas, and Social-Justice Opera


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Work by Former Denver Artist FACARO Shines on True Blood

Categories: Art, Bicycling

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Photo by Fabiola Torres Alzaga
Carolina Fontoura Alzaga has come a long way since Denver. The artist, who's now based in Los Angeles, goes by FACARO in the art world, where she's gained international acclaim. And one of her chandeliers made of bicycle parts was just featured in several episodes of the popular vampire series, True Blood.

See also:
Denver native's used bicycles chandeliers have made her an international art star

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The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Lands a Killer Matt O'Neill Painting

Categories: Art, Art reviews

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"Town Without Pity," by Matt O'Neill.
No institution has played a more important role in Colorado's art history than the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Among its collections is one dedicated to modern and contemporary pieces created by Colorado artists. It's a nice collection -- not on the level of the Kirkland Museum's, mind you -- but very nice, and it just got a little nicer.

Last spring, the center mounted Thrift Store Sublime, a solo dedicated to Denver's highbrow/lowbrow juggler extraordinaire Matt O'Neill, which I reviewed in May. During the show, O'Neill felt that museum director and chief curator Blake Milteer and assistant curator Joy Armstrong had done well by him, so he decided to give one painting from the show to the CSFAC -- and he let them pick which one (the museum already has two O'Neills in its permanent collection).

See also: Tour Matt O'Neill's world at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

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