Stand Out Show: “standout show” during Denver Arts Week. Nov 1, 2018

Things to Do for Denver Arts Week Nov 1, 2018

Fifteen Ways for Art Lovers to Kick Off Denver Arts Week:


Standout Stop for Arts Week

Fifteen Ways for Art Lovers to Kick Off Denver Arts Week

When First Friday collides with Denver Arts Week on Friday, November 2, it will create an explosion of exhibition openings, $52.80 art deals at galleries all over town and, as it happens, Día de los Muertos street celebrations connected to artwalks in the Santa Fe Drive and 40 West arts districts. On Saturday, November 3, take advantage of DAW’s Night at the Museums to visit the Denver Art Museum, the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, the Clyfford Still Museum and the Byers-Evans House Museum gallery in the Golden Triangle, as well as the close-by Museo de las Americas, all for free. You’ll also find plenty of art to explore in RiNo and other regional art districts. But just in case you’re still confused about where you want to land this weekend, here are some standout stops.

Margaret Pettee Olsen, “Information Under Fire,” 2017, synthetic polymer and reflective pigment on canvas.

Margaret Pettee Olsen, “Information Under Fire,” 2017, synthetic polymer and reflective pigment on canvas.
Margaret Pettee Olsen

Relay: Paintings by Margaret Pettee Olsen
808 Projects, 808 Santa Fe Drive
November 1 through 30
Opening Reception: Thursday, November 1, 6 to 8 p.m.

Margaret Pettee Olsen, an abstract painter with a background in limited-edition lithography, brings a printmaker’s ethos into her work, which consists of polymer-layered canvases that are painted in broadly brushed swaths of organic tangles, drips and markings she calls “edits.” See Olsen’s latest at this exhibition curated by Denver art writer Stephanie Grilli.

Westword announces Colorado Women in Abstraction

Westword, A Village Voice Media newspaper covering Denver and surrounding areas, announces Colorado Women in Abstraction at Center for Visual Arts, MSU, Denver, Friday, July 15.  My work, “Vortex” is featured (below).

Colorado Women in Abstraction

 Colorado Women in Abstraction
Courtesy of the Center for Visual Art/MSUD Margaret Pettee Olsen,”Vortex.”

Women artists, long victims of the grip of critical subjugation, are beginning to get their due, thanks in part to groundbreaking exhibitions like Gwen Chanzit’s Women of Abstract Expressionism at the Denver Art Museum. With a national show of that scope on the local lineup, Cecily Cullen of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Center for Visual Art decided to do something similar for Colorado’s healthy contingent of female abstractionists, andWestword critic Michael Paglia, a scholar of abstract art with a unique knowledge of who’s who in the state, was the clear choice to curate the CVA’s satellite exhibit. The result,Colorado Women in Abstraction, opens with a reception at 6 p.m. on July 15.

The exhibit includes a diverse cross-section of work by more than thirty artists — a “wonderful take on different approaches to abstraction,” according to Cullen — and has an educational bent, as well, with a comprehensive slate of panels and talks scheduled throughout its run, including one moderated by Paglia on August 25 and a lecture by Chanzit on September 13. “We’ll have a lot of opportunities for the community to hear from artists and experts and really learn about the abstract-art movement,” Cullen notes. “And it’s beyond time to set aside the ridiculous notion that men and women have different skills or levels of talent. Women are now being recognized for their skills as ‘artists.’”

Colorado Women in Abstraction runs through October 1 at the CVA, 965 Santa Fe Drive. For a schedule of events and more information, visit the website at call 303-294-5207.

Work to be included in CO Women In Abstraction, Center for Visual Arts

Hopefully, you’ve heard about the upcoming exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, Women of Abstract Expressionism, curated by Gwen Chanzit running June 12th-September 25th. I think this will be an interesting fleshing-out of the history that put New York City at the center of the global Art World map.

A show that responds to that one will take place from July 15-October 1 at the Center for Visual Arts, Metropolitan State University. Less than two miles from the DAM.

From their press release at Center for Visual Art- Metropolitan State University of Denver:
“…this exhibition is presented at a time when the art community worldwide is examining the role of women in contemporary art and questioning the uneven representation of women in major exhibitions, publications, and sales. Guest curator Michael Paglia (art critic for Denver Westword and art ltd. magazine, and author of books Colorado Abstract and Texas Abstract) has brought together some of the most important women abstractionists…”

I’m very pleased to be included in the exhibition along with  many talented contemporary artists working today. Hope to see you there!

FILE NOT FOUND work by Margaret Pettee Olsen + Brian Kane

Gallery EOSS postcard cover_o




Curated by Alexander Castro

OCTOBER 15 2015 through NOVEMBER 14 2015

Opening Reception: OCTOBER 15, 2015, 5-10 pm

Gallery EOSS

91 Hartford Ave., Suite 105, Providence, RI


Gallery EOSS welcomes BRIAN KANE and MARGARET PETTEE OLSEN for its November show, FILE NOT FOUND, an exciting combination of work that walks the line between digital and physical.

Pettee Olsen is an accomplished painter whose brushwork offers much to contemplate and absorb. Her large canvases are blatantly abstract but so rich in color, texture and gesture that one finds traces of the figurative. Her mark-making evokes image-editing software with graphic overlays, howling blank space, and chaotic trails of paint that weave sometimes fluidly, sometimes jarringly, through one another.

Kane, meanwhile, enjoys toying with the stuff of digital matter: he’s covered billboards in nature imagery, balloons with hashtags, and people’s eyes with black privacy bars. Both artists thus deal with artistic technologies. Pettee Olsen layers paint until it achieves a kind of controlled chaos, eventually approximating the feeling of what she calls a “media-driven version of experience.”

Kane has a different response to this data-driven life: his IRL Photoshop masks, OMG and hashtag balloons, and real-life Photoshop ‘cutouts’ seem to be attempts at materializing what has largely been a digital world. Both artists navigate a world drowning in formless data, but ultimately produce physical objects.

Data may appear at first invulnerable, intangible and out of harm’s reach, but it often depends on a physical host. In this intriguing show, Kane and Pettee Olsen search for new forms to host the wild hordes of zeroes and ones we encounter in our daily lives.




Alexander Castro

Alexander Castro (b. 1992) is a freelance journalist and arts writer living in Attleboro, Mass.

State of the Art Criticism

MJ&D cropped 2015

Artist Margaret Pettee Olsen, art critic for New York Magazine Jerry Saltz and Director of the Clyfford Still Museum Dean Sobel at ‘A Critical Conversation’, Ponti Hall, Denver Art Museum, February 12, 2015

I’ve been away from my blog as I’ve been planning and then moving my studio to a new, much larger space. A flood forced the move, but it turned out to be an excellent one. So I have some catching-you-up to do. Here’s a quick recap of what’s been of note to me outside the studio–albeit kind of late. This February, Roberta Smith, art critic for the New York Times, and Jerry Saltz, art critic for New York Magazine, paid a visit to the artists, collectors, curators, dealers and art lovers of the Mile High City to talk about the state of the art of criticism today. The Denver Art Museum’s Ponti Hall at(DAM) provided a venue for the attendees. The Clyfford Still Museum (CSM) sponsored the event. That CSM was able to entice both of these critics out to for a talk was terrific—perhaps a first for Denver.

Speaking as an artist, i.e., one who naturally spends a lot of time in the studio playing this one person sport of painting, I knew I had to go listen and maybe even discuss art with this word-wielding duo. Since Jerry Saltz invited me on my Facebook wall to “stop by and say hello” in person, I made sure to take the trek from my studio way north of uptown Denver to the DAM. Dean Sobel, Executive Director of CSM, opened the evening’s talk, A Critical Conversation, with a quote by Clyfford Still, whose opinion of art critics was, let’s just say, less than glowing. Sobel’s humorous opening remarks called to mind the complicated relationship between critics, artists and the rest of the art world and set the tone for the evening. Jerry Saltz, comic-showman-critic that he is, kept the room thinking about responses to art in a fresh, anti-academic manner which complimented Smith’s unapologetic and focused approach.  Together, their repartee would be the source of dialogue on art that evening, not any preplanned structure. Mr. Sobel did not moderate, there were no cue cards—nothing like that—just two critics with a no-holds-barred, on-the-spot thinking approach to art criticism.

While there was no prescribed format, I did notice that both critics addressed the artists in the audience, asking about how they might fit defining qualities of an artist, from personality profiles to really odd habits such as having a ‘good luck’, sort of fetish object– something to carry wherever one goes. Of course, being an artist is much more than any profile could paint, but I appreciated the direction of the talk: Artists first.  Roberta Smith was upfront in discouraging anyone from choosing the life of an artist unless they absolutely “had to”, and with that, the discussion about the state of criticism and contemporary art began.

I was encouraged to hear that Smith saw painting as a medium very much alive with possibilities today. In her opinion, there were too many artists who were ‘hiding out’ in performance based work. While I have no problem with artists who find good and meaningful direction in ‘social practice’ it was good to hear that her ideas broadly reflected mine regarding the importance of painting today.  I was also pleased that Smith caught my meaning in a question I pitched during the Q&A, “What is next in contemporary art considering how the landscape has changed and our view is one of a layered, multi-faceted, global and information-compressed world–a world where there are many threads of thinking–not just one?” Saltz threw up his hands and exclaimed, “Well, how the hell do we know that?” taking my question, in that moment, at face value, while Smith noodled away at what I was asking—understanding my question demanded stepping back and looking at the direction whole system(s) are moving in now, how art and criticism is changing, and that these changes are altering the very way we see art in context. Near the close of the talk, Smith aligned herself with one attendee who asked if she saw, “important and interesting work happening in many places around the country.” She agreed but added a caveat: “criticism still lives in New York,” she said.

As a onetime New York based artist, I mused a bit more on her comments on criticism in New York, took a few more notes about ideas that occurred to me during the talk, but mainly I tried to listen.  On the way out I thanked Jerry for visiting us far-flung artists, and then I approached Roberta: “Thanks for getting my question.” “It was an important one,” she offered as I packed notes and a sketch into the well-worn black leather bag I’ve carried since I came to New York just out of art school. That satchel’s a well-worn, paint-splattered thing, but I carry it wherever I go.

Now, post flood, panic and studio move, I think about that talk on art criticism, but leave it all at the door  when I walk into the large white studio with cement floors and freshly prepared canvases. I put down a steaming cup of coffee, glance at my black bag in the corner and begin work. Then again, I don’t really have a choice—now do I?


Facture — Finding My Way in Paint

details of recent work energy 2013 Above, Waves (detail), 2013, polymer, reflective and interference pigment on canvas was sold to a private collector.


For years I’ve been inclined to put down subtle washes that I would build, layer upon layer.  I was immersed in the recognition of fast painting for so long during the eighties I reacted by defying painterly-ness in its most plastic form–thick layers of expressive oil paint.  When I began printmaking for a living, working alongside and with the last of the printer painters of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, as well as pop and conceptual artists, from Willem de Kooning to Barbara Kruger, my head and hands were in ink and everything I considered about making art was examined under this new lens of printmaking.

I recently began considering how printmaking had an effect on my art when professor of printmaking at Brooklyn College and onetime printmaking colleague, David Lantow, visited my studio last month. David said he could see printmaking’s obvious impact on the evolution of my imagery and the manner in which I made art.  My use of thin, relatively even layers of pigment and concerns for building texture graphically were indicators.

Oddly enough, I had never given this any serious thought before. The idea was liminal, but soon after our visit, I was reminded of what artist Mike Cockrill once posted on Facebook when discussing an artist’s misplaced search for an authentic voice, “Behold the core”, he said.  An artist doesn’t have to worry about finding his/her ‘voice or style’ . The hand of the artist is always there in the work–no need to go looking for it.

Printing provided a mechanism for me to slow down my thinking and to hold me to task in considering every mark.  Printmaking had helped to forge my visual vocabulary.  What was I doing by painting? I began my latest canvases with a fresh, one pointed focus in mind: facture through painting.

I began to think back to other possible influences to see if they might lend clues to my essential concerns. As a onetime performing artist I found myself looking to ‘gesture’– again. It made perfect sense…’Behold the core’. In my gut and in my bones, from all those years of dancing (see Biography),’gesture’ in all sorts of space and light was central.  But how did this fit with painting?

I found myself looking even closer at the surface of my canvases: swaths of thin white, and interference pigments, recorded trails of sensually flipped brushes on both dry and slippery surfaces over transparent-primed linen. But the soft warm grey of the canvas fiber was where I really began my inquiry.  My pallet, though not dramatically changed, now seemed to ask for a spectrum of greys, warm and cool, between iridescent, translucent and opaque whites and dark glossy and soft matte blacks. I exaggerated the feathering of bleeding pigment on linen, blending the grey of linen and the grey of paint , co-mingling these ‘stitches’ inside broad gestural strokes, sensing the need for a wiry outward wending  from vortexes of visual detritus drawing line back in.

Fragility of form, the power of gesture, the dissolution of drawing, traces and steps, edge and edge-less-ness, line of sight edits, a berth of vision– this is what I’m still after in paint.











This September 20th consider participating in the silent Auction at BMoCA. (Update –This painting was sold at auction to a private collector.)


ART MIX WavesMy work, ‘Waves’ (pictured above) will be available.  A detail (below) highlights some of this painting’s subtle reflective properties.

Center detail, "Waves" by Margaret Pettee Olsen

Click the link below to view auction items and further information on ARTMIX @ BMoCA.





Painting Is Dead, Long Live Painting

Does something have to ‘replace’ painting in the evolution of Art History? It’s kind of up to all of us to declare it dead–or not; artists, collectors, curators, gallerists, museum directors,viewers, etc.,despite what a few may believe. For me, painting is very much alive. Then again, I don’t buy in to the idea that something worth looking at, something transportive, has to be shocking, new media. Photography, for example, has been around as long as I have but I don’t think it has taken the place of painting. It offers something different. Each new thing that comes down the curatorial pike, each new invention in media, is not ‘a replacement for’ but ‘in addition to…’ the unfolding of aesthetics and ideas in Art History. Perhaps, because I don’t have the need to establish hierarchies and designate one thing above or below another, something which has absolutely nothing to do with experiencing art, I engage in seeing all sorts of work. I love the diversity and panorama of visual opportunities available today. Why trade the possibilities of full vision for a pair of horse blinders? Painting is fresh and provocative when the artist is speaking authentically, the fullness of a viewer’s experiences are tapped and deep seated memories and associations rise to the surface of full awareness with new clarity and connection. At its best, painting can instantaneously transport us through time and, as one Lawrence Charles Miller poetically pronounced on a thread by collector, Claude Reich on facebook, good painting can ‘wake up the dead’. Yes, painting is still miraculous.

I could address the post-post modern opportunity here, but that will be another post. What I want to point to now is this; the full-bodied-ness of painting, specifically through the language of abstraction, provides a visceral yet wide open and many-leagued sense of the world. It can conjure up a quiescent yet energetic field and gets straight to the unwieldy point of it. Abstraction, at its most powerful, doesn’t preach, instruct or prescribe a set of rules or circumscribe galleries of thought. It references the known while suggesting the unknown.

So what do we make of it, literally? There have been inventions and refinements in paint materials which allow artists to create work with new subtly and effect. Advances in paint media provide opportunities for painters to keep work moving in all sorts of fresh ways. Of course there are manifold ways of making art; performance is alive, blurring lines between the arts and crafts is alive, photography is alive, and the practice of painting, for me, still provides ways to create objects which imbue the world with meaning. Painting is still on the cutting edge of addressing: here, now, that which lies beyond our ken, of flesh and beyond flesh, life, death, transformation, connection, collision, commercialism and dissolution, on and on… Painting can still refresh my sense of what I see and how I see it.

I move to pronounce the majesty of painting, to call the dead awake. Painting Is Dead. Long Live Painting.