The biennial Month of Photography is underway in Denver and surrounding cities throughout March 2021 and beyond, showcasing hundreds of photographers exploring the genre in a multitude of ways.
During Denver’s Month of Photography (MOP)—a biennial event that this year features more than 100 exhibitions and events—it’s always abundantly clear that the participating artists don’t just shoot pictures. They exploit the medium—in the finest sense of exploitation. Beyond the reliable selection of landscape photography and portraiture, MOP makes a case for using photographic imagery in collages, installations, videos, and mixed media, to stunning effect. Viewers will even find that landscapes and portraits dare to play with composition, colors, and light, underscoring the point that these artists make, not merely take, photos and that those photos inhabit their work in many ways.
A number of the MOP exhibitions are quite small yet certainly worthy of inclusion. Several exhibitions take advantage of nontraditional settings such as storefront windows, pop-ups, or coffee shops. Several galleries outside the Denver-metro area are participating; some galleries have stuck to virtual exhibitions. It’s even possible to see large-scale photos from the comfort of one’s car. Viewers have tough choices to make as they peruse the list of MOP sites, although COVID-safe protocols mean it’s best to plan ahead and reserve time in select galleries to take in as many of the exhibitions as possible. Most shows began in early March, and many will continue into April or beyond.
The best source of information is the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC) in Denver’s Golden Triangle district. CPAC, for the first time, took charge of organizing MOP. It enlisted participants, put together a website and brochure that serve as comprehensive guides, and is publicizing events on social media.
Recently, I had only a “day of photography,” but I took in three terrific shows:
Mirror, Mirror at Union Hall in downtown Denver confidently defies the medium’s boundaries, offering photography, collage, and video by six artists working off the “mirror, mirror” phrase from Snow White, but imbuing their work with ideas about racial, ethnic, and gender identity. One of the show’s standouts is the work by Román Anaya, high-contrast photos of costumed, gender-fluid individuals in seductive poses. Meanwhile, Paula Gillen montages her photos with found images for a striking, surreal series called Superpower Women in Space, which depicts just that. Mirror, Mirror continues through March 20.
Reflecting Voices at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center spotlights three artists exploring Black identity. In the black-and-white, slice-of-life photos by Rashod Taylor, the mood is poignant as Taylor captures his young Black son at various ages. For instance, in the silver gelatin print It’s Complicated, his son sits shirtless, twirling a small U.S. flag in what might be commentary on Black life in America. Also commanding attention are the radiant archival pigment prints by Alanna Airitam. The artist subverts old-style European Renaissance portrait paintings to create a kind of Black Renaissance portraiture, in which the African American subjects wear clothing from another era and strike beatific poses. Last is a selection of Black in Denver digital prints and related texts by Narkita Gold from the Denver artist’s long-term documentation project. She captures close-ups of her subjects that exude naturalness and ease in front of the camera. But the message comes through clearly: Black identity is not monolithic. What is also remarkable is Gold’s decision to superimpose the portraits on solid fields of vibrant colors, a move that makes her work instantly recognizable. Reflecting Voices is on view through April 17.
Several of Gold’s Black in Denver portraits are on view at two other locations: Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the From This Day Forward group exhibition, through May 31, and MCA Denver as part of the Colorado in the Present Tense group exhibition, through Aug. 22.
The small Christine Nguyen show Lightness Within the Cosmic Universe at David B. Smith Gallery has a transportive quality created through delicate prints layered with dirt and desert grasses. The highlight is a ten-foot-wide wall installation incorporating salt crystals and cyanotype meant to evoke the ever-changing natural world. Nguyen’s work is on view through March 20.
Here are a few shows that are high on my MOP to-do list:
Alto Gallery, Denver—Thought Objects: Being, Essence, and Notion, featuring a large contingent called the Denver Collage Club, offers self-reflective work through the lens of the pandemic, through March 27.
Daniels & Fisher Clocktower, 16th Street Mall—”Night Lights Denver,” through March 31, features the work of various photographers projected onto the landmark tower.
In a Time of Change, various outdoor locations—Organized by CPAC and Save Art Space, this show utilizes billboards for photo displays allowing drive-by viewing. The works will be up at least through March.
R Gallery, Boulder—Photographers of R Gallery features affordably priced landscapes, nature shots, and architectural studies by Colorado photographers Anthony Segarra, Paul Malinowski, Rob Lantz, Steve O’Bryan, and others. Through April 11.
Robischon Gallery, Denver—Fog Journal, ethereal and misty photos of forests by Colorado artist Kevin O’Connell. Through March 27.
Visions West Contemporary, Denver—Three concurrent exhibitions featuring women photographers who do introspective, narrative work: Patty Carroll with Anonymous Women: Demise, Anouk Masson Krantz with WEST: The American Cowboy, and Holly Anders with The Fallen Fawn. On view March 12-April 17.
Not to be overlooked among all the MOP events are the online lecture series, virtual artist demos, photography workshops, and portfolio reviews, hosted by CPAC, the Denver Art Museum, Curtis Center for the Arts, the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, and Art Students League of Denver, among others.
For ideas on compiling your own to-do list, see denvermop.org.