ms.2011In Review: Denver Arts 2011

Another dynamic year of art and events, and another annual "top ten" look back at 2011 from Ken Hamel of (in no particular order other than what comes to mind...)

1) Month of Photograph 2011

Photographic mastermind Mark Sink pulled out all the stops to herd the cats of the Denver art world into unison for the 2011 biennial
"Month of Photography" which graced the galleries and exterior walls of pretty much every local art district. Standout exhibits included the Three 'Month of Photography' Exhibits at RedLine, Hinterland's Down the Rabbit Hole! curated by Petra Sertic, Mr. Sink himself and Richard Peterson, Sight Unseen at the CVA, Double Diptych at Vertigo (curated by Rupert Jenkins of the CPAC) and The Big Picture at Illiterate. (right: Mark Sink)

2) Welcome Home Clyfford Still

Years in the making, the priceless legacy of abstract expressionist master Clyfford Still made its way to a new permanent home in Denver, conveniently tucked away behind the DAM. The museum is an unabashed success, competently realized both inside and out by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture. Here's wishing long-term success to another gem among Denver's growing universe of dedicated artist museums (alongside the always enjoyable Vance Kirkland Museum.)

christoph heinrich3) That DAM Hamilton Space

I have never been a fan of the DAM's Hamilton building, the Daniel Libeskind designed battleship that hovers over 13th st
, however the DAM curatorial team put together 2 really first rate shows that made the best of the awkward space while being unequivocal hits with patrons as well. Blink! Light, Sound and the Moving Image was a multimedia extravaganza that highlighted the best of the DAM's extensive new media holdings, and while I wasn't at first particularly intrigued by the idea of a series of "Marvelous Mud" themed clay exhibits, the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits component really transcended any "medium" themed label and worked perfectly well as exceptional contemporary art. (left: Christoph Heinrich, director of the DAM with Don Flavin's "Untitled (For A.C.)", 1992)

chavez, smith4) Curatorial talent galore

Kyle MacMillan's departure from the Denver Post will surely leave a hole when it comes to critical review of the local scene, but before he left, he penned an interesting piece on the dearth of curatorial talent ("Curators becoming a vanishing breed on local art scene"), and while the thoughtful article makes some interesting observations, there were some notable locally curated shows that flew under the radar including
Do It at RMCAD and Au: Exchange at RedLine (both curated by RMCAD's Cortney Stell), several excellent exhibits at the Center for Visual Art including Altered Nature (Cecily Cullen) and Reclamation (Jennifer Garner) and Warhol in Colorado at DU's Myhren Gallery.

5) Foothill's Habitat

One thing MacMillan did nail regarding the lack of curators was the departure of Michael Chavez from the Foothills Art Center. Chavez kept the FAC on the pulse of contemporary art and did an excellent job of bringing in challenging work that didn't rock the fragile suburban Golden world, with outstanding shows like Habitat (co-curated with David B. Smith) and the 2010 North American Sculpture exhibit. (right: Michael Chavez and David B. Smith)

6) Ice Cube Warming Up

Now going on 3, the Ice Cube Gallery co-op at the Dry Ice Factory has really started to come into its own, with an interesting slate of artists
(Gary Parkins, Theresa Anderson, Kathy Knaus and Jennifer Jeannelle to name a few) as well as group exhibits throughout the year. Combined with the newly located Rule Gallery next door and Hinterland across the street, 33rd and Walnut is a worthy destination on any given First Friday.

03-09-11_00927) CPAC and WWA

The Colorado Photographic Arts Center has joined forces with Belmar's Working With Artists to forge what will be a powerhouse in local photography education and exhibition. After some initial internal reconnoitering including the departure of WWA's Linda Sheridan
, the new CPAC ("cee, pee, aye, cee" please) has brought in ex-CPAC president Rupert Jenkins to helm the combined organization, a solid move that will assure a steady stream of both contemporary and historic photography exhibits. The new CPAC gallery started off with 2 excellent shows: BorderLines, curated by Erin McCarley and the Jenkins curated Situating Robert Adams, riffing on the concurrent Adams retrospective at the DAM. (left: Rupert Jenkins)

8) Nice press if you can get it receives a ton of press releases, and unfortunately a high percentage are lacking in the basic "blocking and tackling" of the form (a concise who, what where, when) let alone providing a competent general interest summary of the event or exhibition. I wanted to give some props to Amy Norton of "The Creative Angle" who consistently does an excellent job promoting events for the galleries she represents. If you desperately need help managing and promoting your gallery's events and email list, give Amy a ring.

9) 2011 stuff

After a little bit of research and help from friends, I was able to set up the DenverArts facebook page which has been listing a mix of event photos and various tidbits of information that didn't have a chance to make it onto the website; don't hesitate to become a friend and digest the feed. I was also fortunate to guest juror a show built up from an excellent group of local and national photographers at tbellphotographic as part of the Is This How I Look? exhibit.

10) Other exhibits of note:

Best wishes for a fantastic 2012! - KLH

(photos by Ken Hamel/