The best art exhibitions of 2022 (including three you can still see)

Make no mistake, this was not an easy year for galleries and museums. With pandemic concerns still raging, no one knew who would show up to their exhibitions or when. Some folks got desperate, some gave up. Others met the moment with offerings that helped us through a difficult transition. These shows led the way.

“Herbert Bayer: An Introduction,” Resnick Center, Aspen

“Introduction” was not just a survey of Herbert Bayer’s paintings, it was the debut of an entire new museum dedicated to the much-admired 20th-century artist and designer who spent much of his career in Colorado. The museum is small and slick and well-positioned for success on the campus of the Aspen Institute. The Resnick Center is destined to become a state landmark and a year-round attraction in a city that knows how to mix its nature and its culture seamlessly.

Read our August review here.

Anthony Garcia, “Pigment,” Arvada Center

“Pigment” was an important show for both the region and the artist himself. It brought attention to one of Denver’s most prolific public muralists and arts activists while channeling his career in important new directions. Arvada’s curatorial staff accomplished what other galleries routinely fail to do: bring an outdoor artist indoors and demonstrate meaningfully how “street art” can also be “fine art.” Fans of both of those categories like to dismiss each other, but Garcia’s thoughtful, and yet still monolithic, paintings proved they have a lot in common.

Read out July review here.

“ReVisión: Art in the Americas,” “Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche,” and “Who Tells a Tale Adds a Tail,” Denver Art Museum

These three exhibitions came one after another, and with great hype, loudly announcing the Denver Art Museum’s refreshed commitment to collecting and showing Latin American art made in the present. As a trio, the exhibitions drew a line from objects made centuries ago to new work created very much in the present by millennial artists from across the hemisphere. Each was enlightening, provocative and in sync with the times. Cheers to curators Victoria I. Lyall, Jorge Rivas Pérez and Raphael Fonseca. Can’t wait to see what comes next. (Or you can still see “Who Tells a Tale” through March 5)

Read our review of “La Malinche” here.

Ana Maria Hernando, “Geometrís Tiernas,” Robischon Gallery

Artist Ana Maria Hernando is having a mid-career moment, and getting the appreciation she deserves as one of Colorado’s most exciting, ambitious and sincere artists. This show was the perfect balance to another Hernando solo outing, the Denver Botanic Garden’s “Fervor,” and the two exhibitions revealed an artist very much concerned with the idea of community while also dedicated to creating unique objects with commercial appeal. Hernando’s work is uplifting and fanciful — she uses a lot of tulle, in sherbet colors — but potent.

Read our review of “Fervor” here.

Gregg Deal, “End of Silence,” RedLine Contemporary Arts Center

Artist and Native American activist Gregg Deal has a lot to say and this show provided him, finally and fully, with an effective voice to express his ideas. Deal seemed to create a whole new language in “End of Silence,” combining text lyrics from classic punk rock songs with comic book-inspired, panel paintings depicting key moments in the brutal takeover of Indian lands by frontiersmen in the 18th century and beyond. Deal reeled us in with cartoon visuals but then cut deep and bloody in the way that lyrics from the Sex Pistols and Black Flag can. Curator and enabler Louise Martorano kept it from falling into the category of too-clever.

Read our September review here.

“Saints, Sinners, Lovers and Fools,” Denver Art Museum

This exhibition is turning out to be the blockbuster that wasn’t — and that’s too bad. “Saints, Sinners, Lovers and Fools” is a stunning display of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art created in the 15th to 17th centuries in and around Flanders. The painting is magnificent and the story this show tells, about how prosperity leads to amazing human creativity, is both clear and important. That it isn’t exactly the talk of the town may be due to the fact that European painting is on the outs these days.  That’s a bias that will only hurt its holder. This show runs through Jan. 22, so you can still get a glimpse.

Read our November review here.

“Carey Fisher,” RedLine Contemporary Art

This outing is as much an event as it is an exhibition bringing together two of Denver best-admired landscape painters, Beau Carey and Ian Fisher, for a two-person show full of well-considered — and sometimes dazzling — scenes of nature. Fisher paints the sky and Carey paints the land and together the show offers a comprehensive view of both the local terrain and how Western landscape painting is evolving in the 21st century. Curator Cortney Lane Stell keeps the sensationalism in check and puts the focus on the artistic and intellectual processes that make this fare so compelling. This show remains up until Jan. 8.

Read our December review here.

s. legg, “pieces,” Leon Gallery

Timing was everything for this small and surprising show at Leon Gallery. It came along just as we were all venturing out again in force after the pandemic’s caution, and s. legg was there with his quizzical objects to remind us why seeing art in real life, in an adventurous space, can be such a joy. This artist works in everyday objects, like pencils and banana peels, and many of his works have punchlines — a protective umbrella made from condoms; a bust of male figure made from white bread. But he elevates it all by connecting his ideas to the ironies of contemporary life and leaving just enough mystery to keep us guessing. This show, organized by Eric Nord, was a gift.

Read our July review here.

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