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 Balance. Rarely has Walker Fine Art come up with an exhibit as successful as Balance, which pairs recent abstract paintings by Denver artist Don Quade with abstract sculptures by Colorado Springs-based Bill Burgess. Quade was formerly at Fresh Art Gallery, but Walker picked him up when Fresh Art closed last year. His work in mixed media combines expressionism and geometric abstraction, contrasting approaches that make for pronounced juxtapositions of scribbles and hard-edged shapes. These recent paintings feature light-colored grounds with darker marks laid on top -- something of a change for Quade, who was previously known for his all-dark canvases. Burgess is among the deans of contemporary sculpture in the state, with more than forty years of making art under his belt. These most recent sculptures are based on simple, pre-historic shapes such as arcs, circles and spirals and are made of rusted or stainless steel, or both. A monumental version of one will be completed this spring in Confluence Park. Jointly designed by Burgess and architect David Barber, the sculpture will be a giant fifty-foot helix rising out of a pool. Through May 7 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955.

Common Ground and Tree. Robischon Gallery is presenting a pair of solos, one featuring painter Chuck Forsman and the other photographer James Balog. Both artists live in Boulder, and both take fresh looks at nature. Forsman's Common Ground, which comprises contemporary representational paintings, takes up Robischon's front space, while the center space is filled with Balog's Tree: A New Vision of the American Forest, in which the artist's recent photos of trees are getting their Denver debut. Some of the paintings in Common Ground depict the American West, Forsman's signature, but others convey scenes in Vietnam. Although these latter pieces don't refer to the Vietnam War, they are meant to generally bring up the topic. Balog went around the country -- and to a lot of trouble -- to create Tree, which is made up of photos from the past five years of some of the biggest trees in the world. (Balog essentially climbed the trees in order to capture the images.) Interestingly, both artists use their aesthetic talents to make credibly contemporary works that simultaneously raise issues about the environment, making this an excellent pairing. Through April 9 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788. Reviewed on March 31.

Leaving AztlŠn. The Center for Visual Art in LoDo is presenting a provocative show, Leaving Aztlán: Rethinking Contemporary Latino and Chicano Art. Kaytie Johnson from the Peeler Art Center at DePauw University put it together with input from, among others, CVA director Kathy Andrews. The show examines new trends being embraced by Latino and Chicano artists -- and by Latinas and Chicanas -- and in the process explores the convoluted relationships between art and ethnicity. Ten years ago this would have been an overtly political show, but now, though politics are still in the mix, there are also many pieces that express cutting-edge aesthetic theories. Artists from across the country were selected -- including Jesse Amado, Connie Arismendi, Javier Carmona, Alex Donis, Diana Guerrero-Mácia, John Hernandez, Benito Huerta, Chuck Ramirez, Juan Ramos and Rubén Ortiz Torres -- but Johnson also chose two local talents, Carlos Frésquez and Maria Michelle Gonzalez. Through April 23 at the Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207.

Mel Strawn. Salida-based artist Mel Strawn has a long exhibition track record in Colorado, but in recent years he's kept a low profile. That makes Mel Strawn: Retrospective: 1957-2004 a rare chance to catch up on what he's done over his long career. Strawn was educated in California in the 1950s and taught at a variety of colleges before becoming the director of what was then called the School of Art at the University of Denver in 1969; he remained at DU until 1985. Although the Sandra Phillips Gallery is hardly large enough for a real retrospective -- so it might be a stretch to call this one -- there's room enough to briefly sketch out Strawn's development over nearly a half a century. In a variety of paintings, works on paper and digital images, Strawn reveals his interest in bold compositions with emphatic divisions between the forms and colors. The players in the art world change so often that it's hard to keep up, but someone like Strawn is too interesting to be forgotten, and this show is a good way to remember his contributions to the scene. Extended through April 9 at the Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-5969. Reviewed March 17.

Our Culture Is Our Resistance. The Colorado Photographic Arts Center only rarely presents single-artist exhibitions, as it's doing now with Our Culture Is Our Resistance: Repression, Refuge and Healing in Guatemala. The show focuses on the work of Denver photographer and CPAC member Jonathan Moller, who, between 1993 and 2003, took annual trips to Guatemala to capture village life in the war-torn country. The subjects of Moller's very ethnographic-style work are the indigenous Maya people who were terrorized and uprooted by the protracted civil war. At first glance, the photos seem to be slice-of-life shots, à la National Geographic, but it soon becomes apparent that they've been posed. The images are published in a book with the same epic title that includes poetry, essays and testimonials. It's available for purchase at CPAC, with sale proceeds going to the Association for Justice and Reconciliation in Guatemala. Note: This show will be the last CPAC offering until next fall, as the center's building will be extensively remodeled over the summer. Through April 23 at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, 1513 Boulder Street, 303-455-8999.

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