Brief reviews of current shows

 Apparition. The brand-new Gallery Severn, which is owned by art collector and retired executive Andy Dodd, aims to be what he has called a "launch pad" for emerging artists. This specialty in fresh faces instantly makes the place interesting. Also interesting is Dodd's decision to feature only one artist at a time so that the gallery can promote individuals, individually. Limiting inventory in this way seems like a risky business move, but who knows? It might just work. For the inaugural exhibition, Apparition: The Act of Appearing, Dodd chose to highlight abstract paintings by Dante Ortiz, a young artist who is little known in Denver. Born in Colorado, Ortiz was educated at the Rhode Island School of Design, earning degrees in landscape architecture and fine arts. This led directly to his founding of Studio Forma, a landscape design firm in Boulder. Last year he started painting again, creating the abstracts of overlapping color fields set off by enthusiastic scribbles that make up this show. These bright Ortiz paintings look pretty good in the tidy space. Through June 30 at Gallery Severn, 3210 Tejon Street, 303-532-9369.

Colorado & the West. David Cook Fine Art in LoDo presents an annual survey of regional art that was done in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. Every year, the show turns out to be one of the best around. Then again, the finest material from this period is so wonderful that it would be difficult not to come up with a good exhibit. For this, the fifth year, the gallery acquired a large private collection that had been hidden away right here in Denver. This was supplemented by pieces from the estate of Ethel Magafan, including many of her own creations and some by her twin sister, Jenne. Both were protegées of Boardman Robinson at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center School. That institution and its predecessor, the Broadmoor Academy, were important to the development of art in Colorado, and Cook's has frequently focused on artists associated with these schools. Denver artists are also included, notably Vance Kirkland and William Sanderson. Through June 3 at David Cook Fine Art, 1637 Wazee Street, 303-623-8181.

DELIRIOUS and URBAN ORGANICA. There may be some kind of message behind the juicy-looking resin-on-acrylic panels installed in the front of + Gallery that make up Kate Petley's solo, DELIRIOUS, but it's hard to figure out what that would be. Instead, what's striking is how beautiful they are -- and how decorative. Each of Petley's pieces has been mounted on two chrome brackets that hold them to the walls, allowing light to shine through from behind and give them a luminescent quality. A major strength of these Petley's is the colors, from rich ambers to gorgeous blues. Probably as a result of the physics of pouring the liquid resin, the compositions are predominately organic abstractions, which makes them neo-modern. In the back is Jean Arnold's URBAN ORGANICA made up of abstract paintings that reference representational imagery, lending them a retro-quality. Arnold's subjects are the sights she's recorded of motor trips in the West, and to some extent she's able to convey movement of those adventures. Through May 19 at + Gallery, 2350 Lawrence Street, 303-296-0927. Reviewed May 4.

From Nordenskiold to Nusbaum. This impressive photo show, on view in the Western History/Genealogy gallery of the Denver Central Library, has the five-volume title of From Nordenskiold to Nusbaum: Archaeology, Photography and Tourism in the Early Years of Mesa Verde National Park. The show was jointly curated by Thomas Carr, archaeologist at the Colorado Historical Society, and Trina Purcell, curator of photography at the Denver Public Library. Carr and Purcell picked through the extensive collections of both the CHS and the DPL to select the pieces. The Nordenskiold part of the title refers to Gustaf Nordenskiold, a Swedish scientist and photographer who explored Mesa Verde in 1891; the Nusbaum part refers to Jesse Logan Nusbaum, who excavated the ruins and became the superintendent of Mesa Verde National Park in 1921. But there's more to it than photos by Nordenskiold and Nusbaum; pieces by William Henry Jackson, Thomas McKee, George Beam, Laura Gilpin and many others fill out the show. Through May 31 at the Western History/Genealogy gallery, Denver Central Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-1821. Reviewed April 20.

KAHN + SELESNICK and Gary Emrich. Collaborators Nicholas Kahn, who was born in New York, and Richard Selesnick, from London, create photo-based works purporting to be historic documents, though the scenes they depict are thoroughly preposterous. Their show begins with the pseudo-exotic "The City of Salt," followed by the pseudo-scientific "The Apollo Prophecies," the pseudo-archaeological "Scotlandfuturebog" and the pseudo-National Geographic "The Circular River". There are elaborate stories laid out by the scenarios depicted in each, but without referring to the explanations by the artists, viewers can only get a vague sense of what they might be. Every one of these series is engaging, elegant and well-done, but the images from "The Apollo Prophecies" are the most incredible because they're so convincing. The subject is the moon's surface as recorded in panoramic photos that are more than six feet in length. In a small space in back, Gary Emrich: Spectacle, pushes photography onto a different path, using it to make sculptures. Both through May 27 at the Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788. Reviewed May 4.

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