During Denver’s Coldest Week, the Art Shows are Hot!

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Arghhhh! I got back from Washington, DC the other night to arrive in Denver on the coldest night of some 40 years…brrrr! I was tempted to stay in wait for it to warm up (like maybe another week), but then I ultimately felt the pull toward the galleries…so like a moth to the flame, I went in search of the light.

Luckily, the galleries are mostly warm – a couple of them have space heaters going, but for the most part, they provide a great opportunity to get in from the cold and enjoy some of the very best Denver has to offer.

They are all very different shows and so I have to point out that I am not listing these in any particular order because I thoroughly enjoyed all of them.

  • “Dimension & Symmetry” by Clark Rickert at Gildar Gallery  – Clark has long been one of the art stars of Denver art scene and yet his work always seems of the moment. I am enamored with the vibrant colors that he applies to advanced mathematic equations and theories.
  • “Structural Leanings” featuring Haze Diedrich & Lewis McInnis at Space Gallery – the strong architectural underpinnings of both of these artists’ works is very compelling. I have been a fan of both of these artists for years and am in love with these new works.
  • “Flos” by Mia Mulvey at Goodwin Fine Art – I love these sculptures based on Dutch still life imagery and conceived with the very latest technologies.  The juxtaposition of ceramic, felt and 3-D printing connects historical reference to current media.
  • “Altitude” by David Kimball Anderson at Robischon Gallery – I was blown away by these installed pieces that use cast bronze work alongside scrap materials to convey a story of journey and a profound sense of mindfulness.
  • From the “Mandala” and “Buddha” series by Bill Armstrong at Robischon Gallery – these photos are gorgeous! They complement the other shows in the gallery, but are worth a look on their own.  I find them to be contemplative and joyful. They strike me as a bit of a riddle – there is a sense of paradox with the vivid colors presented through a lense that is out of focus.
  • “Cosmic Ebb & Flow” featuring Barbara Groh at Sandra Phillips Gallery – Barbara’s abstractions convey a sense of space, evoking different locations: ranging from Sweden to India to the coast of Maine. This show strikes me as new and different, and yet obviously Groh’s.  The forceful, deliberate brushwork combines with delicate almost whimsical mark making – and the underpinning of vibrant colors restrained by material surface treatments are all signature elements.
  • “Mond:See” featuring Sabin Aell and Jonathan Hils at Walker Fine Art – I fell in love with Hils’ work about 10 years ago and have been a convert ever since. He continues his sculptural explorations of fractal elements and aggregation, in this show with new materials and the use of new technologies.  Sabin’s multi-layered imagery reaches new levels of sophistication – they are delicate and beautiful and the installation on the front wall is stunning.
  • Don Stinson at David B. Smith Gallery – this show about over, but if you get the chance to go down and check out the show, it is totally worth it to see his latest landscapes. Make sure you call ahead because the gallery will only be open by appointment during the holidays.
  • “Refashioned Fables: Icons and Tribes of the Disbanded West” featuring Bale Creek Allen & Tracy Stuckey at Visions West Gallery – another show that is about over; rush over and take a look. The bronze sculptures are really amazing – cast from tumbleweeds. The paintings are take a satirical look at the already re-imagined ideals of western culture.
  • “Fluid” by Frank Martinez at Plus Gallery – I am in love with the level of skill displayed in these predominately black and gray abstracts. The liquidity of the paints captured on panel belies their 2-dimensional restrictions. Looking at these, I get the sense that I can feel the viscosity of the liquids and dip into the visualized space.
  • Jeff Aeling, featuring John Davis and introducing Jivan Lee at William Havu Gallery – I went to check out Aeling’s atmospheric landscapes and wound up really taken with Davis’ sculptures. The three artists present well together.
Barbara Groh at Sandra Phillips Gallery

Barbara Groh at Sandra Phillips Gallery

BUDDHA 714 1of10, by Bill Armstrong at Robischon Gallery

BUDDHA 714 1of10, by Bill Armstrong at Robischon Gallery

Frank Martinez at Plus Gallery

Frank Martinez at Plus Gallery

Furrow by John Davis at William Havu Gallery

Furrow by John Davis at William Havu Gallery

David Kimball Anderson at Robischon Gallery

David Kimball Anderson at Robischon Gallery

Haze Diedrich at Space Gallery

Haze Diedrich at Space Gallery

Lewis McInnis at Space Gallery

Lewis McInnis at Space Gallery

Red Rocker Rider by Tracy Stuckey at Visions West Gallery

Red Rocker Rider by Tracy Stuckey at Visions West Gallery

Looked Back, Not Knowing by John Davis at William Havu Gallery

Looked Back, Not Knowing by John Davis at William Havu Gallery

Mia Mulvey at Goodwin Fine Art

Mia Mulvey at Goodwin Fine Art

Quantum Zone 2013 by Clark Richert at Gildar Gallery

Quantum Zone 2013 by Clark Richert at Gildar Gallery

The Spud Redux, 2013 by Don Stinson at David B. Smith Gallery

The Spud Redux, 2013 by Don Stinson at David B. Smith Gallery

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10 Shows to See in Denver Right Now – August 2013

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Nick Cave: Sojourn at the Denver Art Museum is far and away my favorite show in Denver right now so I am setting it apart from my list of 10.

I have seen his work in museums in LA and Seattle and at the Jack Shainman Gallery in NY a couple times over the past 10 years. I always find myself struck by how his art which seems all-at-once to express carefree, optimistic creativity while hinting at an intense personal narrative filled with caution and perhaps melancholia.

His fancifully embellished soundsuits have taken the world by storm and this show dazzles viewers with the latest and greatest – there are 20 new ones strutting the runway. In this exhibit, I am in love with the 16ft. tondo; it’s an enormous round canvas made out of shimmering beaded black cocktail dresses. I guess the depiction of the night sky is more expression than actual representation; it deftly conveys the artist’s nostalgia for simpler times – just looking at it transported me back to those summer nights when I’d lay back and stare up at the night sky.

I have been back to the museum to see this show a few times and find myself  really drawn to two new series – his “Rescues” and his paintings. In the former, he takes porcelain dogs and props them up, comforting them in cocoons crafted of other flea market finds: grandma’s birds, flowers and beads.  The latter are somewhat 3-dimensional bas-relief compositions of birds, flowers, fruit, beads, beads, and more beads and offer an opportunity for Cave to explore new directions.

There are so many great shows going on in the area; here are 10 of my favorites:

  1. Figure to Field: Mark Rothko in the 1940s at Denver Art Museum – For anyone who is familiar with Rothko’s color-field paintings, this is a must-see.  It really is helpful to look at works that bridge the figurative to abstract.  I was surprised I hadn’t seen more of the them since they mostly come from the collection of the National Gallery and I have been dozens, if not hundreds of times.
  2. Guillermo Kuitca: Diarios at MCA – I was struck by his retrospective exhibit the Smithsonian did with the Albright-Knox a few years back, so it was a treat to see some of these records and how they reveal his ongoing practice.
  3. Catalyst: Colorado Sculpture at Denver Botanic Gardens -it is fun to check out what some of Colorado’s most accomplished sculptors are doing in the public works arena – highlights include Fleming, Lovendahl, Marold, Saito and Surls .  Ana Maria Hernando’s large-scale paintings inside the Boetcher Center are stunning.
  4. Jeanette Pasin Sloan & Kevin Sloan at William Havu Gallery – Wow! You really won’t find two more accomplished painters anywhere. Every single work is stunning!
  5. Victor Vasarely and Yaacov Agam, selections from the David Goodman Collection at the Arvada Center. Op-art is hot this year and this exhibit focuses on two leaders in the genre.
  6. Playground by Margaret Kasahara & Ashley Benton at Sandra Phillips Gallery – Margaret is not only one of the nicest people around, her artwork is among the most compelling in the state. I love her work  – the contradiction of art so colorful and playful that at the same time tackles such difficult issues of xenophobia, race and gender bias. Everytime I look at her work it pulls me into her conversation and confronts me to think about my own prejudice.
  7. Art Abstracted by Sally Stockhold & Virginia Maitland at Museum of Outdoor Arts – two of my favorites!
  8. Corpus Exuberis by Pangloss Gravitron at Emmanuel Gallery – this collective group of artists put together one of the most cohesive shows in the city; I like the steampunk appeal of the work juxtaposed with the old Episcopalian Chapel.
  9. Influence  at Mai Wyn Fine Art. The re-conceived Sandra Phillips space on Santa Fe Drive (SP is now in Golden Triangle) is part studio and part gallery.  This inaugural exhibit showcases some of the many talented artists that have influenced Mai Wyn as an artist.  It is a beautiful, well-curated show.
  10. Urbanism – artwork by Paul Ching-Bor & Sharon Feder at Goodwin Fine Art. Another great show in a beautiful gallery.  The show focuses on the urban, industrial lines of the city. While the two artists have decidedly different styles, I am drawn to their painterly approach.
Nick Cave Sojourn at Denver Art Museum

Nick Cave Sojourn at Denver Art Museum

"Influence" at Mai Wyn Fine Art

“Influence” at Mai Wyn Fine Art

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Guillermo Kuitca: Diarios at MCA

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Someone Like You by Margaret Kasahara at The Sandra Phillips Gallery.

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Linda Fleming at the Denver Botanic Gardens

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Fractal Echo by Nancy Lovendahl

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Birds of America Migration Interrupted by Kevin Sloan at William Havu Gallery

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Virginia Maitland at Museum of Outdoor Arts

Roland Bernier – Lifetime Artist

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“Man is no longer an artist, he has become a work of art.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Who’s to say that a circle is more significant than a square or a triangle…shapes are shapes.  Letters are shapes too – if you can divorce the symbolic connotations from letters grouped together to form words and just begin to admire the individual letters for their shapes, you can begin to understand the world of Roland Bernier.  For Roland, words are compositions of form, worthy of admiration.

There are many text-based artists whose works are really focused on the meaning of words or phrases – I immediately think of Barbara Kruger, Glenn Ligon, and Lawrence Weiner. Not all of Bernier’s work is devoid of reference, but that is not the main focus of his work.

It’s so rare to see anything truly new, but Bernier has been a pioneer; he started working with text-as-form some 50+ years ago. Since then, any number of artists have followed suit – consider Nancy Holt’s photograph “Concrete Poem” and Mel Bochner’s “Blah Blah Blah” paintings and even more recently of Thomas Müller’s ceramic forms in his show “Nothing Rhymes with Orange”, Fionna Banner’s “Concrete Poetry” and Jaume Plensa’s “Figurative Sculptures.”

I have visited Bernier’s studio a number of times to check out his archives (some is missing, but he has inventory dating back to 1965) and have seen eight or so shows at the Denver Art Museum, Spark Gallery and Walker Fine Art; I love his stacked words, the words on wheels, the cross words, his hysterical “What a Dump” series, “Talking in Circles” and his hands series.

My all-time favorite pieces are his more recent signature series.  After seeing some of his other shows, I went to see this body several years ago and initially tried to dismiss them. I found myself going back – the second time I saw his empty frames with nothing more than his signature, I recognized he was onto something. The third time I visited that show I understood: so much of art is about the signature – people rush up to look for the name.

Roland is now in his 80’s and for the past 5-6 years he has been acutely aware of his own mortality. His introspection leads him to explore the merger of art with artist. He now prefers the use of his own name in favor of more randomly selected text, covering literally anything and everything with his signature over and over and over …and over again, the latest pieces only with his last name. He is not morose, “This might be my last show, so I am only using my last name,” Roland says smiling, happy with his clever use of words.

Roland Bernier is represented by Walker Fine Art where “The Last Picture Show” is on view June 7-July 12. www.walkerfineart.com

Roland Bernier, "The Last Picture Show" at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier, “The Last Picture Show” at Walker Fine Art

Bernier at Denver Art Museum, 2007

Bernier at Denver Art Museum, 2007

Roland Bernier "Talking in Circles" at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier “Talking in Circles” at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier's Signature Series at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier’s Signature Series at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier Signature Series at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier Signature Series at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier, "What  A Dump" at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier, “What A Dump” at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier "HI" at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier “HI” at Walker Fine Art

Some other artists using text as compositional form:

Nancy Holt Concrete Poem at CAG

Nancy Holt Concrete Poem at CAG

Mel Blochner Blah, Blah, Blah

Mel Bochner Blah, Blah, Blah

thomas-muller-at-project-4

thomas-muller-at-project-4

Fiona Banner at Frith Street Gallery

Fiona Banner at Frith Street Gallery

Some artists using messaging in text-based artwork:

Barbara Kruger at the Hirshhorn

Barbara Kruger at the Hirshhorn

Glenn Ligon at the Whitney

Glenn Ligon at the Whitney

Lawrence Weiner at the Guggenheim

Lawrence Weiner at the Guggenheim

The MUST-SEE Show in Denver.

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If you only get to see one show in Denver, you really should check out the David B. Smith Gallery.

Michael Theodore fills the main gallery with an installation called “endo/exo.” At first glance (and I think probably in most of the image shots) it looks like industrial scaffolding; the lighting effects on the complex web of fibrous knots hint at stage design. It takes up the entire space and ultimately, he’d like to make it even bigger – like hundreds of feet bigger!

Take your time with it because it has so much to offer.  I got the chance to chat with Michael the other day and he explained a bit about his fascination with rhythms – both organic and mechanic (this makes total sense – he is a music professor); he envisions an increased interdependency…a symbiosis of man and machine.  It’s more than just man and machine, but really an exploration of the increased layering of complex systems and how they interact.

It’s easy to infer an influence of other artists who are working with light – Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell, Leo Villareal, and perhaps that’s right, but the work is more than that. It actually reminds me a bit of the installation in the Fuse Box at the Denver Art Museum; coincidentally, Annica Cuppetelli and Cristobal Mendoza have installed an interactive light display on rope. Their imagery responds with movements and sounds that draw the viewer’s attention away from the actual rope and into the digitized realm of human/computer interaction.

Micheal’s ropes never leave his story, they are held captive by the confines of the machine – there is a human/computer interaction here too:  lights change, the tick, tick, ticking of the clocks (okay, not actual clocks, but motorized ticking rods that could be clocks) speeds up and slows down, pausing for effect.  I find the narrative to be compelling – spellbinding, a bit sinister, and absolutely of the moment.

The rest of the show includes gorgeous generative loops on paper, delicately engraved scratchboards, and a series of video works and printed stills on view in the loft space.

There are a lot of shows in Denver right now that I have already written about – many of which are closing soon, but this one is up for a couple more weeks (June 15th). If you haven’t seen it already it is the one to rush out and see.

www.davidbsmithgallery.com

"endo/exo" by Michael Theodore, Courtesy the artist and David B. Smith Gallery; Photo: Melinda Kern

“endo/exo” by Michael Theodore, Courtesy the artist and David B. Smith Gallery; Photo: Melinda Kern

"endo/exo" by Michael Theodore, Courtesy the artist and David B. Smith Gallery; Photo: Brian Birlauf

“endo/exo” by Michael Theodore, Courtesy the artist and David B. Smith Gallery; Photo: Brian Birlauf

American Museum of Western Art

I often write about the art I see during my travels, but the reality is there is a lot to see right here in Denver.  A couple months ago I went with an art historian to The American Museum of Western Art. It was a treat and really a must see in Denver’s growing art scene.

The museum is the showcase of the Anschutz Collection, arguably the best private collection of western art in the world.  It packs, salon style, as many pieces as it possibly can into the 4-story Italianate building from the 19th century (The building itself is worth checking out and has a storied past – read http://www.westword.com/2012-05-31/culture/museum-of-the-american-west-anschutz-collection/  for more information.) There are more than 600 pieces covering works spanning 150 years of artists’ engagement with the West.

The museum is generally planned according to movements and schools of art and while not exactly in chronological order moving from the oldest works on the lower level and up to the most recent on the upper levels.  It is useful to think about these schools and movements and you progress through the museum – there is so much to look at, it helps to organize the experience and see the works in relation to what other artists were up to at any given time.  Docents typically lead you through the floors, but I am told visitors are free to wander.

The main groupings of works include:

The Expeditionary Artists (George Catlin, Seth Eastman, Alfred Jacob Miller, John Mix Stanley); these guys generally went along on expeditions and scouting adventures to record journeys though the west. Their paintings often showcase the interactions with various tribes and depict trappers as they developed the fur trade.

Hudson River and Rocky Mountain Schools ( Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Worthington Whittredge); these painters typically lived in New York City  and often are most known for their paintings of the Hudson River Valley and later, the Rocky Mountains. These landscapes are filled with light and convey a sense of splendor.

Narrative Artists (George DeForest, William De Leftwich Dodge);these guys were the basic story tellers and depicted what was actually happening as settlers took hold in the west.  They took inspiration from the Renaissance, focusing on playwrights and writers, and poets while telling stories of battles and the gold rush.

California Painters  (Charles Christian Nahl, George Henry Burgess, A.D.O. Browere); these guys came for the gold but went on to showcase early California, often celebrating its Spanish heritage.

Interpreters of the Old West (Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, Charles Schreyvogel); even as the West was quickly developing into a major hub of urbanization, the public embraced their depictions of heroic frontiersmen and the idealized landscapes that filled the pages of papers, magazines and dime-store novels.

Illustrators (NC Wyeth, Dean Cornwell, Herbert Dunton); these artists of the early 20th century were the favored illustrators for short stories, novels and magazines.  Because of the publications, theirs are the iconic images most recognized.

Taos and Santa Fe Schools (Ernest M. Hennings, Ernest Blumenschein, Walter Ufer); these guys were educated artists in search of subject matter. As they travelled west, they basically landed in northern New Mexico and stayed. They developed a style of Southwestern art that is immediately recognizable.

American Regionalist Painters (Thomas Hart Benton, John Stewart Curry) These guys painted America’s heartland in a pseudo-realistic style that gave emphasis to everyday life of small towns and farmlands.

New Deal Artists (Maynard Dixon, Victor Higgins, Frank Mechau,) In the 1930’s Federal programs including the Works Progress Administration and the Section of Painting and Sculpture employed artists to commission paintings for post offices, state capitols, and government buildings. Many of these paintings were murals that depicted the strength and resourcefulness of Americans and the bounty of the landscape.

Expressionists (Marsden Hartley, Birger Sandzén); these artists were modernists, they conveyed emotion through manipulations of color, surface, and form.

Cubism and Abstraction (John Marin, Georgia O’Keefe); it is at this point in the tour of the museum that I really began to notice how quickly styles of art were changing, not only in the West, but around the world. The museum speeds through different modernist styles.

The size of the museum belies the collection – it really is so extensive that you can go back to again and again and continue to see different things and learn more about the development of art of the West and how it relates to the history of our country. (http://www.anschutzcollection.org/)

The-Silenced-War-Whoop - Charles Schreyvogel

The-Silenced-War-Whoop – Charles Schreyvogel

The-Last-Race-Mandan-O-kee-pa-Ceremony George Catlin

The-Last-Race-Mandan-O-kee-pa-Ceremony George Catlin

Death of Minnehaha - William de Leftwich Dodge

Death of Minnehaha – William de Leftwich Dodge

Sunrise In The Vineyard Kim Douglas Wiggins

Sunrise In The Vineyard Kim Douglas Wiggins

Laura Letinsky at the Denver Art Museum

Laura Letinsky: Still Life Photographs, 1997–2012, is on view through March 24, 2013 at the Denver Art Museum.

Laura Letinsky is one of those smart ones – you know the type that makes you wish you had really focused on your homework.

Letinsky is well-versed in art history and it shows; her gorgeous still-life images are immediately accessible to the viewer because of their familiarity. The influence is obvious and yet… there is something more…or less. These aren’t the luscious depictions of the lavishly abundant Dutch tables of the 17th Century. Hers are barely-there pieces of fruit on white linens with white backdrops. There are none of the skulls of the vanitas, and yet there is the melancholic reminder that her stories are of moments passed.

Letinsky is a philosopher. We generally obsess with that fleeting moment of perfection when a peach is at its very juiciest firm-fleshed fullest or a lily is sweetly fragrant. Letinsky’s focus is more on the reality this is the penultimate state of dying. In her photos the fruit has that juicy-sticky quality that makes us want just to clean it up before the flies begin choke on the decay. The perfume is beginning to remind us of the stench of fetid water.

Letinsky is a technician – she uses film and she knows all those things that photographers seem to know about cameras and lenses and lighting. I heard her talk and for all I know, when it came to the technical “stuff” she could have been describing how to build spaceships.

Letinksy is a photographer – Of course she knows that the images engage viewers to connect the dots to history and confront mortality and philosophize about perceived meaning, but above all else she is a photographer. I once asked a painter about some of her recent works – the symbolism or meaning of the recurrent imagery; she laughed and told me “It’s paint on a canvas.” It’s funny because I didn’t quite get it then; I mean, it seemed like an idea I could get behind when looking at Abstract Expressionism, but her paintings were figurative. I do get it now – Letinsky’s work sets it out there: there is decaying fruit, spilt wine, paper cups and wrappers; but ultimately they are photographs. She is in the business of taking light and color and composition and capturing that with her camera in a way that allows her to share her “paint on a canvas.”

"Untitled #54" from the series "Hardly More Than Ever," 2002, by Laura Letinsky. (Photo provided by the Yancey Richardson Gallery)

“Untitled #54” from the series “Hardly More Than Ever,” 2002

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Untitled, #5 2005 To Say It Isn’t So

 

 

Untitled #2 from the series "The Dog and the Wolf," 2008

Untitled #2 from the series “The Dog and the Wolf,” 2008

Untitled #1 31x40 from the series "The Dog & The Wolf"

Untitled #1 31×40 from the series “The Dog and the Wolf” 2008

El Anatsui at the Denver Art Museum

“When I Last Wrote to You about Africa” is El Anatsui’s retrospective show, currently at the Denver Art Museum.

It’s funny…I find myself talking about favorite artists and I guess I have a lot of them because he is definitely one of my favorites.

I first began seeing his work about 10 years ago when I was travelling back and forth to London. Since then, I have admired his work in New York, Washington, DC, Paris, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Seattle and here in Denver. I have been enamored with the metal tapestries of bottle caps draped on walls, suspended from the ceiling and seemingly dropped onto the floors. I have tried to grasp the underlying meanings of using recycled found materials, and the obvious consumption and economic engines behind the overwhelming volume of bottle caps, largely from liquor bottles.  I have looked at the patterns and made my assumptions about their connection to distant and unkown (to me) cultures.  Mostly, I have enjoyed the high/low; hard/soft; heavy/weightless; effortless/meticulous nature of the work…they are truly stunning, shimmering works that leave me spellbound.

So with all that in mind, I thought I had some idea of who El is as an artist and what I could expect in seeing the retrospective, pulled together by Lisa Binder, Curator at the Museum for African Art, New York.

I was so wrong – I was in no way prepared for the breadth of experience and depth of his work.  The show brings together the full range of the artist’s work, from wood trays carved with symbols familiar to the Akan people of Ghana; his Broken Pots series (and his unbroken ceramic pots); beautiful paintings rich in color, symbology and landscape; driftwood statues, and even the beloved metal wall-hangings that have taken the art world by storm in recent years. I was thankful to get to hear him talk about his experiences, his development as an artist and as a professor and his mostly just his work.

If you get the chance to see the show, in Denver through the end of the year, and then in Dallas this winter, do…definitely do.  I have a feeling you might just discover one of your favorite artists too!

El Anatsui – Old Cloth Series at Denver Art Museum