What's missing from Colorado's "Best of..." lists when it comes to visual art

What's missing from Colorado's "Best of..." lists when it comes to visual art
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I'm not usually keen on top 10 lists or "best of..." rankings particularly when it comes to the visual arts. (How do you rank something so intangible, alchemical, and visceral as one's experience with and of a work of visual art?) It seems to be a staple in journalism these days. Bloggers like Tyler Green do it, numbered, but in no particular order (then why the numbers?). Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine gives us the "Year in Art," his wife Roberta Smith narrows the idea to a mere five of her favorite paintings in New York museums, and online sites like Visual Arts Source rank the top ten in California only (though they claim to cover all of the West). Puzzling.

Closer to home, my colleagues seem to enjoy looking back over the year and selecting their top choices to write about. (Its an easy deadline filler during the hectic holiday season.) At Westword, Michael Paglia selects "Ten Artists Who Left Their Mark on Colorado in 2010." His choices, without number ranking (bless you) include: Colin Livingston, Dale Chisman, Marie Vlasic, Clark Richert, Joseph Shaeffer, Linda Fleming, Dan Ellier Chapman, Charles Deas, Enrique Chagoya and Christo. I hate to admit, that I did not see Dan Ellier Chapman's video portrait, nor am I at all familiar with his work. So thanks Mr. Paglia for pointing out someone I have overlooked. I liked all of his choices, yet wanted them all to be artists living and working in Colorado. They are not.

Kyle MacMillan at the Denver Post named Bud Shark the 2010 "Visual Art Person of the Year." I like that Macmillan chose Shark over Chagoya, the two experienced the ultimate low this year when Montana truck driver Kathleen Folden broke into the Loveland Art Museum and destroyed Chagoya's print "The Misadventures of Romantic Cannibals." The master printmaker is the one who makes works like Chagoya's possible and neither men, nor the Loveland Museum cowered in the face of controversy (the way the Smithsonian did over David Wojnarowicz's video). Macmillan also chose Clark Richert as "Artist of the Year" and ranked the "Top Ten Visual Art Exhibits" naming "Tutankhamen: The Golden King" as number one, "Moore in the Gardens," number two and William Kentridge at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, number three.

Uh, what the heck? Tut is a slick, glossy bit of cultural entertainment. I'm sure Zahi Hawass will disagree, but the show is filled with artifacts, ancient art, yes, but doesn't deserve a number one ranking, even for the blockbuster number of visitors it attracted to the DAM. Hopefully those visitors also took a look at some of the more interesting art on view like Robert Benjamin's photos in "Notes from a Quiet Life," and Marc Brandenburg's drawings in "Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft". It's a bit tragic that Colorado hosted it's first William Kentridge exhibit in 2010 and kuddos to Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center for bringing his work here, but Kentridge has been everywhere since a major survey of his work "Tapestries" was launched at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007 and another survery "Five Themes" made the rounds from San Francisco MoMA to Fort Worth, West Palm Beach, New York, Paris, Vienna, Jerusalem and Vancouver. In my opinion, Macmillan's numbers 5, 6 & 7 should be moved up to 1, 2, 3: "Energy Effects" at MCA, "The Nature of Things" from the Denver Biennial, and "Clark Richert: 1960s to Present" at RMCAD.

I'm more interested in what is unique to Colorado and not just some rehashing of the latest trends in contemporary art. I would also add Lauri Lynnxe Murphy to the list for her dedication in pulling off "Objectophilia." It was flawed, but powerful. Bill Amundson, who was everywhere from a billboard near DCPA to Rhino to DAM. John McEnroe whose "Bathers" was purchased by DAM for their permanent collection and Rick Dula for that matter whose "A Moment in Time: Here" was also acquired. Jenny Morgan, who is garnering international recognition, and this year completed two commissioned portraits for New York Magazine covers. Kate Petley for "One Big Dream" at Plus Gallery and "The Spaces in Between" at the Nicolaysen in Casper, WY.

And Mr. Paglia, you focus on artists who left their mark on Colorado, but where is the mention of anything remotely outside of Denver from either you or Mr. Macmillan? Nothing from Boulder, Fort Collins? What about Durango, or Aspen? Kentridge is a focus because you drove to Colorado Springs to see his show, but not Mark Bradford at Aspen Art Museum? Bradford was featured at AAM early in 2010, his first appearance in the state. Since then he has exploded onto the national media showing up in every major art magazine. And while Christoph Heinrich brought Denver Brandenburg's first solo U.S. museum exhibit, Heidi Zukerman Jacobson did the same in Aspen with Sergej Jensen. And AAM was the only place I visited around the state where I could hop on a hippo. The haunting portraits of Hung Liu were shown in New York at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in 2009 and through early in 2010 were featured at FMOCA which most recently displayed glass installations by William Morris. In Durango, Fort Lewis College Art Gallery recently featured sensual and colorful fiber works by artist Jen Pack. With all the talk of Bud Shark, I can't help but also point out that some dynamic printmaking is featured in SW Colorado annually. The tiny town of Creede will host it's eleventh "National Small Prints Show" in 2011 small prints and Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts in Pagosa Springs is gearing up for its third "Print National."

Art happens everywhere in the state, not just on the Front Range.

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