It’s road trip season in Aspen.
There’s a time-honored tradition in these parts, when the lifts stop running and the mud starts flowing, to set out for weekends and longer stretches beyond the mountains. Some favorite shoulder-season pastimes are escaping to the deserts of Fruita and Moab, boating on Lake Powell, catching a Rockies game and shopping in Denver.
But for those of us hungry for a visual arts fix, before Aspen’s cultural high season starts up next month, there’s plenty to explore around Colorado. From an exclusive collection of Georgia O’Keeffe paintings to thousands of abstract canvases by Clyfford Still, below are some highlights to get you started on an art-fueled road trip to remember.
Denver Art Museum
Georgia O’Keeffe’s creative vision goes far beyond her iconic paintings of blossoming flowers and animal skulls. The Denver Art Museum put together an illuminating exhibition driving home that point this spring with “Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam and the Land.” It wrapped up this week after a three month run.
With 53 O’Keeffe works, it chronicled her time in northern New Mexico, which spanned 1929 to 1986. It brought to light just how deeply the region influenced her work — from its rusty red clay landscapes to the adobe churches of Taos and folk art of native Hopi culture.
“When I got to New Mexico that was mine,” O’Keeffe told her husband in 1940. “As soon as I saw it that was my country. I’d never seen anything like it before, but it fitted to me exactly. It’s something that’s in the air, it’s different. The sky is different, the wind is different. I shouldn’t say too much about it because other people may be interested and I don’t want them interested.”
One fascinating feature of the exhibition was the museum’s juxtaposition of O’Keeffe’s’ work with Hopi katsinam, the supernatural beings that were believed to bring rain, harvests and moral punishment to the native villagers. With O’Keeffe and Hopi works side-by-side, viewers could see how their style changed the trajectory of her modernist painting, including drawings, watercolors and paintings of the katsinam.
Seldom before exhibited, these pieces will change the way you look at O’Keeffe.
As the O’Keeffe exhibition closes down, the inimitable Nick Cave takes over center stage at the museum. Cave’s performance last summer at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass Village, in his signature “Soundsuit,” was a valley arts highlight of 2012. He is a fabric sculptor, dancer, and performance artist with a singular artistic vision. The Denver exhibition will feature 40 new works by Cave — including 20 soundsuits.
Titled “Sojourn” and opening June 9, the Cave collection also includes an entryway constructed of thousands of buttons, 10 3-D sculptures from found objects, short films, and abstract sculpture that go beyond the human suits that made him famous.
“‘Sojourn’ represents a significant departure in Nick Cave’s career, introducing monumentally scaled work that will offer visitors an immersive experience and new narratives in Cave’s oeuvre,” said William Morrow, the museum’s associate curator of contemporary art.
While you’re there, don’t miss the museum’s permanent basement collection of work by Aspen icon Herbert Bayer, and its new and renovated galleries devoted to textiles. Titled “Spun: Adventures in Textiles,” the expansive collection covers pre-Columbian weaving to Navajo blankets to modern clothing in art and photography.
Clyfford Still Museum
Just opened in late 2011, the Clyfford Still Museum is the latest addition to Denver’s burgeoning cultural arts district. If you haven’t yet made the trip to this two-story, 28,500-square-foot building showcasing Still’s groundbreaking abstract expressionism, do yourself a favor and pay a visit.
The Still Museum, directed by former Aspen Art Museum head Dean Sobel, thoughtfully showcases 2,400 of Still’s pieces. Dramatic, huge in scale and visually jarring, these paintings overwhelm the senses.
The museum recently extended the run of its spring show, “Red/Yellow/Blue (and Black and White): Clyfford Still as Colorist.” It covers five galleries, each devoted to a single color. The collection draws distinctions — and invites comparisons — among fellow abstract expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.
Arvada Center for the
Arts and Humanities
With more than 10,000 square feet of gallery space, the Arvada Center is a hidden gem among state museums.
Here at Time Out we got our first look at the center this winter with its ambitious “Art of the State” show, which featured work by 160 visual artists living and working in Colorado, including four Roaring Fork Valley artists.
Among the current shows at the Arvada Center is a solo exhibition by Scot Odenahl, a teacher at Warren Tech High School in Jefferson County. A designer by trade and a self-proclaimed “font nerd,” his prints interpret classic roadside American signs for establishments like motels and hamburger joints. It’s titled “On the Roadside.”
In the five-plus years since it opened on Delagny Street in Denver, the Museum of Contemporary Art has served as a showcase for the art of our time. Filled with natural light, the museum’s five galleries cover two floors filled with rotating exhibitions by today’s working artists.
Among its current shows is Eduardo Sarabia’s “Tainted.” The Guadalajara-based painter, in this series, has rendered snapshot-like visions of everyday life and then tactfully obscured the faces in them with smears of paint.
Sarabia’s show is the centerpiece of bilingual programming running all May at the museum, showcasing creative work from Mexico that also includes painting, lectures, music and food.