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Capsule reviews of current exhibits

Berghaus, Douglas and Riverhouse Press. In the front spaces at Sandy Carson, there's a whimsical yet intelligent show called Clearing: The Kinetic Sculpture of Marc Berghaus. The pieces are mechanical, with the most clever use of machinery being "Freeway Chase," in which viewers look through the frame of a TV screen to tune into a miniature highway pursuit being played out on a rotating cylinder. "Freeway" is definitely memorable for its neat effects. In the inner reaches of the gallery is Life Is but a Dream: Caroline Douglas, featuring ceramic figural sculptures of people and animals having a magic-realist character. Douglas is especially adept at achieving stunning surface effects, with her skill in glazing readily apparent. The gallery is in transition right now, with new owners Jan and Bill van Stratton taking over from Sandy Carson herself. At this point, shows scheduled before the sale are continuing, but the van Strattons are also introducing themselves with Selections From Riverhouse Editions, an exhibit made up of pieces by famous artists created at their fine-print studio in Steamboat Springs. Through May 31 at Sandy Carson Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585, www.sandycarsongallery.com.

Clyfford Still Unveiled. A master and pioneer of mid-twentieth-century abstract expressionism, painter Clyfford Still was something of an eccentric in the artist-as-egomaniac stripe. His antisocial behavior led to a situation where 94 percent of his artworks remained together after he died — a staggeringly complete chronicle of his oeuvre that is now owned by the City of Denver. As a planned Clyfford Still Museum won't be completed until 2010, the institution's founding director, Dean Sobel, decided to preview a baker's dozen of Still's creations at the Denver Art Museum. Sobel uses the very small show to lay out most of the artist's career and stylistic development. Still worked his way from regionalism to surrealism, then wound up developing abstract expressionism with one of the greatest abstract paintings imaginable, "1944 N No. 1" — and the rest is art history. Through June 30 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed July 26, 2007.

Inspiring Impressionism. This is hardly your run-of-the-mill effort in which a cavalcade of big-name European artists are represented by minor works. Instead, it's an intellectually stimulating exhibit crowded with iconic pieces by some of the most significant artists who ever took brush to canvas. Curated by the DAM's Timothy Standring and London's Ann Dumas, the traveling show examines the little-explored relationship between the Impressionists and the Old Masters. The intelligent installation has been handled so that viewers are literally forced to recognize the relationships Standring and Dumas have laid out among several sets of separate pieces of widely different dates and from various points of origin. These comparisons lead viewers to make insightful observations because their conclusions have been built in to the installation itself — not through wall text, but through the paintings and drawings alone. There are a lot of important pieces, including in-depth selections of Cézanne, Monet, Renoir and others. Through May 25 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. Reviewed February 21.

Out of Place. This exhibit highlights cutting-edge photography from around the world, particularly China. The Robischon Gallery has become a Denver center for contemporary Chinese art, and photography has played a huge part in the art boom there. What makes this particularly interesting is that twenty years ago, virtually no one in China was allowed to own a camera. The front gallery is completely given over to artists from China, including Chi Peng and Wang Ningde; both make reference to the idea of flying through the air, a concept of interest to conceptualists throughout the world. But what goes up must come down, and that's the topic of Li Wei's "Falls" series, in the main space, in which the artist is seen in poses meant to evoke the idea of crashing into the ground head first. Putting figures in unlikely poses is also of interest to French artist Denis Darzacq, whose subjects are breakdancers in Paris who seem to be floating. Through May 3 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, www.robischongallery.com. Reviewed April 17.

The Plains of Sweet Regret and Last Place. The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar, nicknamed the Lab, currently has two shows. The Plains of Sweet Regret, a multi-screen video installation by New York artist Mary Lucier, highlights the steep decline of rural life on the high plains as corporate agribusiness displaces small farmers and kills small towns. The arc of the piece, which definitely has a regional flavor, is a hypnotic rodeo sequence set to George Strait's plaintive ballad "I Can Still Make Cheyenne." In an interesting move, Lab director Adam Lerner decided to pair it with Last Place, a series of conceptual works by local legend Phil Bender. For decades, Bender has picked up discarded objects and assembled them in their original states to create installations or sculptural cycles. The idea is that what he does is art because he says it is, and apparently everyone agrees. It's amazing how much visual mileage Bender has been able to get out of his single revelation that art is about perception. Through May 1 at the Lab at Belmar, 404 South Upham Street, 303-934-1777. Reviewed March 6.

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