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 Better Times, et al. Contemporary painter Evan Colbert has been successfully riffing on minimalism, pop art and conceptualism for the last several years -- and he's not about to stop now. Among his most interesting pieces are those in which he creates a color field based on paint chips and then labels it with an evocative word. For his recent body of paintings, displayed in Better Times at the + Gallery, Colbert uses colors and words to evoke political themes, such as the one referencing the Department of Homeland Security's color coding of terrorist-threat levels. It's great. Also at + Gallery is Nocturnal Suburbia, in which Patti Hallock takes shots of the suburbs at night. There's an implicit indictment in these views of cheap materials used mundanely, but this sociocultural narrative is offset by the poetics of the darkness that envelop the scenes. Finally, there's Cremasteric Reflex Corset, a signature piece by Ira Sherman, one of the region's most respected vanguard sculptors. The contraption is a high-tech torture device with the fine detailing of a piece of jewelry. Implicitly, it's intended to be worn by an unlucky man. Through January 7 at + Gallery, 2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927.

The Eternal Gift. The Taylor Museum in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is showing off some of its treasure in The Eternal Gift: Selections From the Fine Arts Center's Permanent Collection. The Taylor's inventory has many strengths, including modern art from the early to mid-twentieth century, which is what's on display in this show. Michael De Marshe, the center's president, made the choices; after sampling the Taylor's marvelous American scene paintings collection, he decided to include spectacular period pieces by Walt Kuhn, John Sloan and Isabel Bishop, along with that signature Georgia O'Keeffe flower painting. There's some early vanguard stuff -- notably, Arthur Dove's "Fog Horns" and Chagall's "Inspiration" -- as well as great things by Marsden Hartley, Milton Avery and John Marin. The next generation is also on hand, with the Taylor's famous Diebenkorn taking center stage; the Motherwells are pretty neat, too. Regular visitors will be familiar with many of these pieces from past shows at the center, but the thing about masterpieces is that they never get old. Through February at the Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, 1-719-634-5583.

Filters of the Twentieth Century. Over the last couple of decades, there's increasingly been a problem with making neat and tidy distinctions between photojournalism and fine-art photography. Art is exactly what's in store for viewers of Filters of the Twentieth Century: Margaret Bourke-White, Carl Mydans on display at Cherry Creek's Gallery M. True, Bourke-White and Mydans were photojournalists, but their works are examples of fine-art photography anyway. Bourke-White did Life magazine's first cover, "Fort Peck Dam," in 1936; an estate print of it is included at Gallery M. The exhibit also has photos Bourke-White took for Erskine Caldwell's 1939 book, You Have Seen Their Faces, which was her personal response to photos of the rural poor taken for the Farm Service Administration. Like Bourke-White, Mydans was one of the first generation of Life photographers, and before that he worked for the FSA. The show could be criticized for being way too crowded, but considering what it's crowded with -- stunning images by Bourke-White and Mydans -- who cares? Through January 31 at Gallery M, 2830 East Third Avenue, 303-331-8400. Reviewed October 14.

Graphics by 20th Century Masters. The Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs is hosting this impressive traveling show that includes a who's who of the world of modern art. Graphics by 20th Century Masters includes more than sixty prints in a wide range of techniques, all collected by Wes and Missy Cochran of Georgia. Wes began collecting pop art as a young man in the 1960s when he was working in the oil fields in the Middle East. Interestingly, the Cochrans are not wealthy -- Wes works as a stonemason and Missy as a public school teacher -- and that's surely why they choose to collect prints, which are more affordable than paintings or sculptures. As could be expected, there's depth in pop art, with examples by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Indiana and Claes Oldenburg, but there are also major works from early in the century by the likes of Picasso, Chagall and Dali. There are so many different artists doing so many different things, it's tempting to call the show comprehensive, though, of course, it isn't. Through January 28 at the Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Colorado Springs, 1-719-262-3567.

Jeff Starr: A Way of Life. For the past twenty years, Denver artist Jeff Starr has managed to be relevant to the contemporary art scene, which is no mean feat. Back in the '80s, he established himself as a top contemporary painter with his body of idiosyncratic, surrealist-style paintings. In fact, just last year he was one of the anointed in the Museum of Contemporary Art's biennial, where he was represented by his retro-abstract ceramics. How he went from being a painter to a sculptor is the topic of this exhibit at Rule Gallery, where Starr's efforts have been seen over the years. The show lays out his development over the last decade, with the oldest pieces in the show dating from the early '90s and the newest having been done within the last few months. The message is that Starr's sculptures come out of his paintings -- sort of. Starr's pieces in any medium are created in a range of styles, but there are always references in them to the art of the past. As an added bonus, conceptual artist David Brady's recent work is on display in the Viewing Room. Through January 8 at Rule Gallery, 111 Broadway, 303-777-9473.

NOT YOUR TYPE. The Singer Gallery at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture is presenting NOT YOUR TYPE: Works in Words by Roland Bernier, Rick Griffith and Martin Mendelsberg, an art show about words. Simon Zalkind, Singer's director, organized the exhibit as the visual-art component of the center's annual Leah Cohen Festival of Books and Authors. Zalkind cleverly put graphics -- a widely seen but rarely exhibited art form -- with that old exhibition workhorse: painting. The lone painter in the show, Roland Bernier, has been using words as an aesthetic device for nearly forty years. Bernier's work looks great next to the graphics of Rick Griffith and Martin Mendelsberg, because they also use words to make their art -- but for different reasons. Bernier is one of the modern masters of the area, and Griffith and Mendelsberg are both extremely well known. It's a diverse group of pieces, but the show is somewhat unified because there are all those words everywhere. Through December 30 at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-399-2660.

Opened Windows. Boulder artist Virginia Maitland has been part of the local scene since the '70s, when she moved to Colorado from Philadelphia on a whim after graduation from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Since Opened Windows at Studio Aiello is her first show in Denver in a decade, however, many in the art crowd may never have heard of her, let alone have seen her pieces. Something of a retrospective -- though it's been installed backwards, with the newest works in the first bay and the oldest in the third -- the exhibit includes over three dozen paintings, some of them eight feet long. As befits such a massive endeavor, there's an accompanying catalogue. The show was organized by gallery co-directors Monica Petty Aiello and Tyler Aiello, with lots of input from Maitland. An abstractionist, her signature works are color fields à la Helen Frankenthaler, especially the ones done on unprimed canvas. It's this kind of work, created in the '70s and '80s, that made Maitland famous in the region; she also did other work, such as geometric abstractions and even some representational pieces with photo-transfers. Through January 21 at Studio Aiello, 3563 Walnut Street, 303-297-8166.

PILLish, et al. Cydney Payton, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, has been busy lately. She oversaw the architectural competition to select a designer for the museum's soon-to-be-constructed new building (the winner: David Adjaye), and she's been lining up money to pay for it, which is a full-time job in itself. But somehow she was also able to put together the three shows currently at the MCA. On the main floor is PILLish: Harsh Realities and Gorgeous Destinations, which takes aim at the drug culture, both of the illicit and prescription kind. The exhibit includes a roster of international artists -- among them, Larry Clark, Damien Hirst, Nan Goldin, Takashi Murakami and Fred Tomaselli -- as well as Colorado's own Albert Chong. Closely related in content to PILLish (because it has a medicine chest in it) is Paola Ochoa's True Love, a video installation nestled in a space under the mezzanine. Ochoa was the first artist selected for the MCA's NEW PIC program, which highlights emerging talent. On the mezzanine is Shadows and Fog, a solo by Margaret Neumann, an early exponent of neo-expressionism. All through January 2 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554. Reviewed November 11.

The Quest for Immortality. With the rise of archaeology in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, scientists began excavating Egyptian tombs and discovering a wide array of gorgeous artifacts. This tomb art is what makes the blockbuster currently on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science absolutely fabulous. A traveling exhibit about midway through its coast-to-coast tour, The Quest for Immortality was organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in collaboration with Copenhagen's United Exhibits Group and Cairo's Supreme Council of Antiquities. An army of scientists, curators and scholars worked on it, headed up by Betsy M. Bryan, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The heart of the exhibit includes objects found in the tomb of Thutmose III, as well as an astounding digital re-creation of the tomb itself. The show is jammed with visitors, but don't let all the people -- or the steep ticket prices -- dissuade you: This is one show that you've really got to see to believe. Through January 23 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, 303-322-7009. Reviewed October 7.

TIWANAKU. In the Helen Bonfils Stanton Galleries on the first floor of the Denver Art Museum is the unusual show TIWANAKU: Ancestors of the Inca. Tiwanaku was a large city on the shores of Lake Titicaca, in the mountains of Bolivia, that existed from 200 to 1100 A.D. The people who lived there, also called Tiwanaku, were not really ethnically related to the Inca, though the Inca adopted them as their cultural forebears and believed they were gods. Margaret Young-Sánchez, the DAM's pre-Columbian curator, put together the show, which is groundbreaking as a scholarly endeavor. There are nearly a hundred objects, including ritual pieces, ceramics, gold jewelry, pottery and a selection of remarkable textiles. Interestingly, much of the material is not from Tiwanaku, coming instead from surrounding towns. After all, the Inca -- and then the Spanish -- had looted the place centuries earlier, so there's little left. Through January 23 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed November 25.

Western Land: Scapes. Despite the single-show title, this presentation is actually a group of shows that highlight new paintings based on Western views. In the main space is the major attraction: Jeremy Hillhouse's abstracts, which are loosely based on landscapes.This exhibit within an exhibit was put together by Denver Art Museum curator Dianne Vanderlip, who became friends with Hillhouse after working with him at the DAM for decades. Vanderlip selected specific works for specific spots in the gallery, even going so far as to draw a map. The paintings, some of them very large, contain geometric references to the land as it might appear if were seen from above. Most have a light-colored ground set off by dark lines. The landscape sets up an arena for painting, scraping and repainting. In the back of the gallery are Nebraska artist Stephen Dinsmore's dreamy, expressionist landscapes of actual places out on the plains. Up on the mezzanine, small, hyper-realistic landscapes by Wyoming's Scott Greenig are paired with fairly traditional depictions of the mountains in a post-impressionist style by New Mexico painter Cheryl Derrick. Through January 21 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360.

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