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Current events

"Call to Arms," a watercolor and gouache on paper, is part of the Herbert Bayer exhibit, "joella's bayers," opening this week at the Aspen Institute. (Courtesy Emil Nelson Gallery)

The exhibit opening this week at the Aspen Institute barely scratches the surface of the artist. But in the case of Herbert Bayer, even a sliver of his output reveals the breadth and quality of his work. The exhibit, titled “joella’s bayers,” features drawings, paintings, photographs, sculpture maquettes, and photo montages – a form that Bayer co-invented – from early-period Bayer, the 1920s to the 1940s, most of it before he made Aspen his home. (The exhibit title refers to the fact that much of the work comes from the collection of Bayer’s late widow, Joella; the lack of capital letters plays off the alphabet that Bayer, a noted typographist, invented, also lacking caps.) Though the exhibit has none of Bayer’s architectural designs, graphic work, posters, commercial work, or earth sculptures (another of his inventions), the pieces displayed demonstrate his genius for emotion, design, continuing themes and color (especially Bayer blue, a shade that still can be glimpsed in various spots around Aspen). “joella’s bayers,” curated by Hugo Anderson (nephew of Bayer patron, the late Aspenite Robert O. Anderson), opens with a reception Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 4:30 p.m., and runs through March 31. An extended look at Bayer’s work is available at Sardella Fine Art, which has “Herbert Bayer: Bauhaus in Aspen,” also opening this week.

With the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences pushing its awards program forward by a month, Aspen Filmfest’s Academy Screenings has had to adapt. With distributors adjusting to the Academy’s shift, many of the Oscar-contending films have already been released by the time the Academy Screenings hit Aspen. So this year’s series, opening Monday, Dec. 19, and running through Jan. 1 in Harris Hall, is a bit shorter on the number of titles and star power, and longer on previously released films. Even so, it’s hard to find a better place than Aspen for a film lover to be during the holidays. The Academy Screenings feature several films that won’t be seen in most places till well after the new year, including “The New World,” Terrence Malick’s anticipated telling of the story of Capt. John Smith and Pocohontas, and “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” the directorial debut of Tommy Lee Jones. Ballyhooed prestige films like “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Casanova” and “The Libertine” are included alongside less prominent but equally promising fare as “Tsotsi,” “Fateless” and “Transamerica.” Aspen Filmfest director Laura Thielen has likened the program to a festival, more than the usual series of big-name movies. Not such a bad thing.

The idea of presenting a stage production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” as an annual Aspen Christmastime event seemed a good one. The Wheeler Opera House space begged for such an offering. The setting of wintry Bedford Falls resonates with Aspen in December; the story of anti-materialist George Bailey is one that Aspen could certainly stand hearing. That good idea got an excellent execution by Theatre Aspen last year. Director David McClendon’s idea of weaving footage from Frank Capra’s 1946 film version – the Bailey home, and the old-fashioned opening credits – worked beautifully. And the cast, led by Aspen product David Ledingham as George, captured the sentimental sweetness and sorrow of the beloved story. This year’s production gets a few cast changes: Rick Stear, a standout in Theatre Aspen’s “A Colorado Catechism” last summer, takes on George; the reliably excellent Bob Moore moves from the angel Clarence to the role of Uncle Billy; and Pat Holloran tries on Clarence’s wings. “It’s a Wonderful Life” – originally based on a Christmas card – is at the Wheeler Tuesday through Saturday, Dec. 20-24, with evening performances Dec. 20-23, and matinees Dec. 20 and 24.

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