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Colorado Clay. Colorado has been a regional center for ceramics for just over a century. The reason is obvious, at least to gardeners and structural engineers: It's all that darned clay. This sets up Colorado Clay, which has been held at Golden's Foothills Art Center since the '70s, to be one of the state's biggest annual art events. Peter Held, a curator at the Ceramic Research Center of the Arizona State University Art Museum, juried the show, which differs from previous efforts in one key way: There are a lot fewer artists. Typically, Colorado Clay includes dozens of participants, each represented by a handful of pieces. This time, however, there are only sixteen artists, each represented in depth. As is increasingly the case among exhibition jurors, Held selected artists instead of artifacts. It's undeniably a great idea, considering how well it's worked. Among the chosen are Marie E.v.B. Gibbons, Julie McNair, Katie Martineau-Caron, Janey Skeer, Pamela Olson, Carol Juddiece Cooper, Matthew Katz, Dan Fogelberg, Shelley Shreiber, Carla Kappa and Matt Huebschmann. Through August 22 at the Foothills Art Center, 809 15th Street, Golden, 303-279-3922. Reviewed August 12.

Common Ground. The Sandra Phillips Gallery specializes in abstraction, as is shown off in the current show, Common Ground, which combines neo-abstract-expressionist paintings by Jennifer Scott McLaughlin with neo-constructivist sculptures by William Mueller. Gallery owner and director Sandra Phillips discovered both artists at the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art's biennial last spring. Though McLaughlin has written that blackboards were her inspiration, her paintings will remind many of the classic work of Cy Twombly. Several of her paintings are done on wood, and McLaughlin lets the grain show through as part of the compositions. Mueller's work is from his "wall series" in which large freestanding wood sculptures are bent at ninety-degree angles like walls meeting in a corner. Mueller has lived in Colorado for the last few years, and his powdery palette and the terra-cotta clay finish he uses are tangible responses to the sights of our region. The pairing of McLaughlin and Mueller works well, even if their work has nothing in common -- other than being abstract. Through August 31 at the Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-5969. Reviewed August 12.

Dots, Blobs and Angels. Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting an enormous solo that is dedicated to the late David Rigsby, an artist who played a big part in the local art scene in the '70s and '80s. The exhibit was organized by director Cydney Payton, who installed it more or less chronologically, allowing Rigsby's stylistic development to shine throughout. The oldest works in the show are two oils on book covers done when Rigsby was a little boy; the newest were done right before he died in a car accident in 1993 -- some of these were done on book covers, too. In between, Rigsby created scores of abstract and figural paintings, as well as a body of remarkable sculptures made of wood and recycled rubber. The outlandish title, Dots, Blobs and Angels, refers to some of the things Rigsby depicted -- though much of what he sculptured during his forty-year-plus career defies description. Clearly, it's one of the hottest shows of the summer. Through September 19 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554. Reviewed July 8.

Federico Castellon. Hugo Anderson, director of the Emil Nelson Gallery, has put together a riveting solo show devoted to the work of a prominent twentieth-century artist. Castellon was one of the few Americans who embraced European surrealism and worked in the style from the early 1930s -- when it was cutting-edge -- until 1971, the year he died, when it was an all-but-forgotten historical style. Castellon was born in Spain, but he moved to New York as a child and spent the rest of his life there. Though Castellon had no direct personal connection to surrealist masters such as Picasso, Miró or Dalí, who, incidentally, were also born in Spain, his work was influenced by them. This noteworthy show came together when Anderson acquired a cache of Castellons purchased directly from the collection of the artist's estate. The crowded exhibit includes examples of Castellon's paintings, watercolors, drawings and printmaking -- his greatest claim to art-history fame. Through September 25 at the Emil Nelson Gallery, 1307 Bannock Street, 303-534-0996.

Ordinary Adornments and Mr. Sparkle. The +Zeile Judish Gallery is highlighting the recent work of a pair of young artists. In the front is Ordinary Adornments, which is made up of New York artist William Crow's wall-mounted constructions that look like surrealist still-life scenes, among other things. The shapes are organic, but the surfaces are a riot of created and appropriated visual flourishes carried out via various materials, including paint and wallpaper. Crow's compositions have a retro feel, and the forms he uses recall those favored by Jean Arp and Joan Miró. The show in the back, Mr Sparkle, takes it's name from a Simpsons cartoon, and also reflects back on earlier modernism -- but in this case it's Andy Warhol and Kenneth Noland. Denver-area painter Colin Livingston creates smart and good-looking paintings that aesthetically are at the intersection of pop and minimalism. Livingston adds text to essentially hard-edged abstractions of the neo-minimalist sort. A pattern painting in green, black and white has the motto "The Original (Party Painting)" filling most of the bottom half. They are clever and conventionally beautiful at the same time. Through August 21 at + Gallery, 2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927. Reviewed July 29.

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