7 Denver art shows to look forward to in the new year

The visual arts calendar is loaded with promising exhibitions as 2023 gets underway in Denver. Among them: Big moves from the Clyfford Still Museum and the Denver Art Museum, a major collab between the MCA and RedLine, and a fresh start for photography across the city.

Here are 7 art shows in Denver to see in 2023

“Awful Bigness”

The Clyfford Still Museum reaches for the sensational with “Awful Bigness,” an exhibition that promises to showcase the painter’s “biggest, most ambitious works.” Still, who spent his formative years living among the actual landscapes of the West, understood the power of staring out at nature’s grandest vistas, and he knew that when he painted on large canvases his works carried with them the sort of sensory explosion that mirrored the effect. That’s a good theory, anyway, and a solid reason to see this show, which is assembled by the museum’s associate curator, Bailey Placzek, working with director Joyce Tsai.

Clyfford Still Museum, Feb. 17-Sept. 10. Info: 720-354-4880 or clyffordstillmuseum.org.

“Breakthroughs: A Celebration of RedLine at 15”

Two of Denver’s foundational cultural operations — The Museum of Contemporary Art and RedLine Contemporary Art Center  — collaborate on this event marking RedLine’s 15th anniversary. The juried, group show features 18 artists who experienced the mentoring — and free studio space — that RedLine offers to artists throughout the region. “Breakthoughs” has a varied lineup, with artists holding diverse ideas and methods at the core of their practice, so it will be interesting to see how MCA’s in-house curators Miranda Lash and Leilani Lynch transform the material into something more than nostalgia. Hopes are high for this outing featuring Daisy Patton, Juntae Teejay Hwang, Tony Ortega, Jeff Page, Suchitra Mattai and others.

MCA Denver,  Feb. 24-May 28. Info: 303-298-7554 or mcadenver.org.

“Renewal,” works by Tamara Kostianovsky

Tamara Kostianovsky is an artist of international renown with a worldly biography. She was born in Israel, raised in Argentina and now lives in New York. Kostianovsky is a textile artist who often shapes recycled shreds of fabric from her own life into sculptures inspired by flora and fauna. This exhibition, at DBG’s York Street headquarters, will explore ideas of a new utopia in environmentally challenged regions of South America and the Caribbean. Expect complicated and colorful objects that bridge the gap between personal experiences and global urgencies.

Denver Botanic Gardens, Feb. 26-June 18. Info: 720-865-3500 or botanicgardens.org.

Month of Photography

It’s hard to say exactly when this biennial celebration of photography starts and finishes. Officially, it’s March 1 but the events calendar begins more than a month before then and will probably go for weeks after. But MOP is always a smash, with 100-plus exhibitions, talks and events, both grand and intimate, local and international, formal and casual. Highlights are likely to be this year’s “The Big Picture,” which transforms small photos into large-scale pieces of public art positioned around the city, and the in-house exhibition from the event’s sponsor, the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, which will show highlights of its own collection, featuring such names as Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham.

Month of March, at various locations. Info: Follow MOP’s evolving website: denvermop.org or CPAC’s: cpacphoto.org.

“Near East to Far West: Fictions of French and American Colonialism”

This exhibition is the most intriguing entry on the 2023 visual arts calendar, a survey of 80 paintings that makes connections between French Orientalism from the 1800s and the way it depicted indigenous cultures of Northern Africa, and great works of American Western painting that followed depicting native North Americans. That might seem abstract but it hits home at DAM, which has an extensive collection of Western Art. The show also serves as a mechanism for understanding the way art of the late colonial age impacted international views of the world. The exhibition’s title “Fictions,” says it all. Not everything the artists painted reflected the realities on the ground.

Denver Art Museum, March 5-May 28. Info: (720) 865-5000 or denverartmuseum.org.

Colorado Photographic Arts Center, grand opening

CPAC has always been on the move, occupying several sites around the city during its six decades of supporting this art form. This year, the center moves again into what will be its biggest and most visible space ever, a historic, 4,000-square-foot building at the corner of 12th and Lincoln streets.  The new headquarters will have larger galleries, more classrooms for public events and upgraded storage facilities for its highly regarded collection. CPAC, which is currently raising money to complete the move, has a 10-year lease on the building, guaranteeing some stability for an organization that has always needed more of it.

Early May. Info: Follow CPAC’s website for evolving news about specific opening dates, a fundraising auction and the inaugural exhibition.

Justin Favela, “Vistas in Color”

Las Vegas-based Justin Favela makes a lot of different things, but he is best known for his “piñata” pieces, large-scale works that use the technique of combining thousands of tiny, colorful pieces of paper to create large-scale landscapes.  For DBG’s York Street galleries, he will create a sizable, floor-to-ceiling mural depicting the mountainous terrain of Mexico. Favela’s works investigate Latinx existence in the U.S. and abroad, combining ideas about art history, cultural upheaval and the role that geography plays in forming identity.

Denver Botanic Gardens, June 11-Oct. 1. Info: 720-865-3500 or botanicgardens.org.

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