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Some of the best works dedicated to the mystical Spanish knight are those in which Tsiaras superimposes metallic-gold grounds over undercoats of various colors. Since Tsiaras is of Greek ancestry, this may reflect the influence of Greek icons, in which a gold panel is placed over a painted one. The diminutive size of these paintings is another indication that they may have been inspired by those religious images.

In "Golden Boys I," a mixed-media-on-canvas gem, Tsiaras has placed a gestural silhouette of Don Quixote in the center and formed a powerful diagonal with his lance. Surrounding the central silhouette are oversized horses' heads drawn in black with blue, red and white highlights that peek through the glittering gold ground. The surface of the painting has also been enlivened with a thick layer of impasto of gesso that Tsiaras apparently applied before he put on the paint. It looks a bit like rough-finished plaster--or, perhaps more appropriately, the icing on the cake.

For "Don Quixote + Friends," one of the larger paintings in the show, Tsiaras has painted black outlines of horse heads and distributed them across the canvas, then painted over and around them with a metallic gold highlighted in red. The Quixote figure, suggested by a vague cruciform, sits astride the suggestion of a horse.

In addition to the metallic paintings, the Inkfish show features Tsiaras watercolors, the finest of which is "John Doe Quixote," a work on handmade paper that places the horse and rider in profile in the center, set off by large areas of brown and blue. Tsiaras also shows a number of essentially black-and-white works that are even more self-consciously Picassoid. In "Lancer," another painting that takes up the myth of Quixote, he has scribbled a figure on horseback in heavy black paint. The diagonal of the lance divides the background into areas of warm gray and creamy white, a device seen again in "Circus," which Tsiaras has split into sienna on the top and light gray on the bottom. In both of these paintings, the figures on horseback have been reduced to a few heavy lines. But Tsiaras's interest in horses and riders is anything but nebulous; next year the artist plans to publish a fifteen-year retrospective of his equine works. The working title: "Horse Boy."

The Metro, Derjue, Coco and Tsiaras shows lay out among them the vast ground that contemporary art has staked out in the last few decades. Unlike in previous years, there is room today for disturbing installations, sweet landscapes, dreamy cityscapes and modernist revivals sitting side by side. And that's fine as far as it goes. But there's also an obvious downside to all of this visual variety: It represents the lack of any real focus in the contemporary art world--not just in Denver, but everywhere.

Metro State College Faculty Exhibition, through April 23 at the Metro State Center for the Visual Arts, 1701 Wazee Street, 294-5207.

Rita Derjue, through April 26 at Elizabeth Schlosser Fine Art, 311 Detroit Street, 321-4786.

Joyce Coco, through April 19 at Brigitte Schluger Gallery, 265 Detroit Street, 329-3150.

Philip Tsiaras: Horses, through April 30 at Inkfish Gallery, 116 South Broadway, 715-9528.

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