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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.

Contemporary Realism and Americana. It's amazing that in the current art world, where it seems like everyone is searching for the next outrageous irony, good old-fashioned representational painters are still going strong. Come to think of it, that's an irony in itself, though no surprise; this kind of thing is so very viewer-friendly. The exhibit, Contemporary Realism, installed on the William Havu Gallery's first floor, is a trio featuring new landscapes by Rick Dula, Aaron Brown and Jeff Aeling. Dula is interested in what he calls "de-industrial-ization," and he conjures up romantic views of closed and dilapidated factories. Brown creates enigmatic narrative paintings that may or may not be based on actual places. Aeling's paintings of clouds and fields, on the other hand, are clearly based on actual locales in the Great Plains. In addition to the main attraction, Havu is presenting a group show on the theme of the cultural landscape. The show on the mezzanine, aptly titled Americana, includes depictions of roadside attractions by artists from the gallery's stable. Through May 7 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360.

Every Place and Bound. A group of distinctive-looking post-minimalist paintings make up + Gallery's Every Place, a solo dedicated to Houston artist McKay Otto. He is just the latest Texan to be recruited for a Denver show by gallery director Gilbert Barrera, himself a Houstonite. Otto, a friend of the late minimalist master Agnes Martin, creates simple compositions -- either spatters or stripes -- painted in pale colors that seem to float beneath the active surfaces of his light-colored grounds. He achieves this effect by laying mesh over his already painted surfaces and then putting more paint on top. In the darker back part of +, there's a hot-looking solo focusing on the recent work of Ethan Jantzer, a definite up-and-comer among local experimental photographers. The show has the provocative title Bound, which refers to the tangled twine depicted in Jantzer's enlarged Cibachrome prints, which are based on photograms. In each, the piece of twine -- which looks like a scribbled line -- is set against a brightly colored ground in one of several rich shades. The enlargements are behind Plexiglas sheets, the perfect finishing touch. Both through April 1 at + Gallery, 2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927.

John Edward Thompson. In 1919, post-impressionist painter John Edward Thompson introduced Denver to modern art in a controversial solo that inspired some to label the show a "monstrosity." Thompson had moved to Denver only a few years before he set the town on its ear. How times have changed. Today, most would describe Thompson's creamy landscapes and portraits as being downright pretty, as is revealed by the exhibit John Edward Thompson: Colorado's First Modernist installed in the small Western History/Genealogy Gallery on the fifth floor of the Denver Public Library. The exhibit includes several paintings from the original 1919 show as well as many never-before-exhibited works by Thompson. The Thompsons have been supplemented with pieces by his contemporaries and students, such as Vance Kirkland, Jozef Bakos and Frank Vavra. The show was organized by guest curator Deborah Wadsworth, a longtime collector of Thompson's work and a member of the recently created Art Advisory Committee, which supports exhibitions on Colorado art history at the DPL. Through May 20 at the Denver Public Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-1821.

microCOSMIC. The Spark Gallery is becoming a center for conceptual ceramics, a type of work that has been dominating the field, as functional ceramics is on the decline. The latest evidence of this is microCOSMIC, a handsome solo devoted to the work of Katie Martineau-Caron, featuring recent ceramic sculptures and related monotypes. Martineau-Caron, who moved to Colorado from Massachusetts a few years ago, is interested in nature-based abstractions. Seeds, pods, plants and even viruses are her obvious sources of inspiration, not only in the forms of her pieces, but in the elaborate and richly toned glazing she employs. Also referencing nature is the way Martineau-Caron weaves the forms into elaborate organic patterns. The sculptures include dialogues, as she emphatically separates the cracked exteriors from the smooth and sometimes hidden interiors. Martineau-Caron is definitely on the way up -- her work appeared in the January issue of Ceramics Monthly. On Saturday, April 16, from noon to 5 p.m., she will be on hand to talk and answer viewers' questions. Through April 16 at the Spark Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200.

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