Brief reviews of current shows

James Surls, Ligia Bouton, and Shark's. The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art has gotten a jump on the upcoming season with the star attraction James Surls: A Cut Above, which features selected works by the famous sculptor who made his name in Texas in the '80s but has lived in Colorado since 1998. Surls's medium of choice is carved wood, and his signature is leaving the wood in its subtle array of natural colors. After carving, he assembles his sinuously cut forms into unlikely arrangements, often hanging them from the ceiling. Also on tap is Ligia Bouton: Hybrids, a video that explores identity though wardrobe with a decidedly feminist stamp; Bouton, who lives in Santa Fe, juxtaposes images of herself wearing different outfits like a burkha on one side and a tutu on the other. Finally there's Woodcut Prints From Shark's Ink: Out of the Woods, with works on paper by Betty Woodman, Red Grooms, John Buck, Roy De Forest and others, produced by Bud Shark in his famous print shop in nearby Lyons. Through October 14 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 303-443-2122.

Something to Consider. This is a wonderful summer show, filled with fresh-looking contemporary paintings and ceramic sculptures. And it's a knockout despite being called Something to Consider, a title that's so broad as to be meaningless. The post-abstract-expressionist paintings are by Quintín González, who keeps getting better and better. The small, square acrylic-on-panel pieces resemble carnival spin art, but upon closer examination, it's clear they haven't been spun. Instead, Gonzalez begins by covering the panel in a flat coat of paint and then pours on different colors, sometimes one over another, so that he can combine multiple shades. One remarkable feature is the way Gonzalez is able to bring together different colors yet also keep them separate and unblended. The thoroughly non-objective Gonzalez paintings have nothing to with Rebekah Bogard's odd and whimsical three-dimensional works that are also on display. But somehow the glazed earthenware pieces based on imaginary insects work perfectly with them. Extended through August 18 at Sandy Carson Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585.

Undergo. The swank little Stay Gallery is a recent arrival in the up-and-coming RINO Art District, which is named not for the African wild animal, but is a clever abbreviation of "River North." Stay, which is owned by Amy Bodin, specializes in young talents -- and conceptual artist Justin Beard, who is showcased in Undergo, certainly qualifies. After graduating from the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design a couple of years ago, Beard got a job in construction, and the pieces in this show refer to that experience. In the main space, Beard has done a full-sized sculpture of a truck that he calls a "mannequin." In addition, he's made a perpetual-motion machine out of an extension paint roller that he's covered with small mirrors. These sculptures are supplemented by drawings and two videos, one showing Beard trying to measure a high-rise with a tape, the other recording his rocket made from a caulking gun that he calls, as you could have guessed, his "caulk rocket." Through August 25 at Stay Gallery, 3519 Brighton Boulevard, 303-408-3057.

VAVRA Triptych. This is only the second time in its history that the Kirkland Museum has squeezed a show into its jam-packed galleries. In two of the museum's principal rooms, director Hugh Grant installed paintings by renowned Denver painter Frank Vavra, his wife, painter Kathleen Huffman Vavra, and their daughter, Diana Vavra, who made sculptures, prints and mosaics. Because the Kirkland has no specifically dedicated space to present the show, the Vavra works are displayed among the ceramics, glass, furniture, sculptures and paintings by others in the permanent collection. Frank Vavra embraced many styles over his half-century-long career, but two stand out: impressionism during the 1920s, and abstract surrealism in the '40s and '50s. Kathleen Huffman Vavra's work of the '20s and '30s, mostly in the form of regionalist watercolors, is extremely nice, and some were actually shown at the Denver Art Museum in a solo she had there. Finally, there are pieces in various mediums by Diana Vavra dating from the '50s to the '70s. Through September 10 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576. Reviewed July 20.

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