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Capsule reviews of current exhibits

Curiouser. Singer Gallery director Simon Zalkind is one of the top curators in town, and one of the secrets to his success is presenting artists whose efforts are worthwhile but who for some reason rarely exhibit their work. That's what's happening now with the unusual show Curiouser: A Dozen Years of Painting, dedicated to the strangely compelling and richly hued oils and watercolors of Denver artist Paul Gillis. A genuine artist's artist, Gillis has earned the respect of his fellow travelers in the visual arts while remaining little known in the wider cultural community, and it is that fact that Zalkind addresses in this solo. The pieces are hard to categorize, because in them, Gillis combines elements of realism, surrealism, abstraction and animation and assembles them in his own highly idiosyncratic personal style. He's created a cast of characters for his pictures that includes robots, dolls with button heads, vessels and animals, all of which interact in enigmatic ways. In some works, he also incorporates a pseudo written language made up of incomprehensible symbols. Through May 28 at the Singer Gallery, Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360, www.maccjcc.org. Reviewed May 7.

Damien Hirst. You'd have to be living under a rock — or have absolutely no interest in contemporary art — not to know that Damien Hirst is a superstar, and that everything he makes is worth millions of dollars apiece. The tight solo at MCA Denver (formerly known as the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver) is not the first time that local art audiences have had a chance to see Hirst's creations in person, but it is his first single-artist show anywhere in the American West. Hirst's "Natural History" series of dead animals in cases is surely his most famous type of work. There's an incredible one in the MCA show called "Saint Sebastian: Exquisite Pain," made up of a bullock that's been pierced with arrows. It's simultaneously compelling and repellent. "Saint Sebastian" dominates the Large Works Gallery, but there are three other Hirst pieces, including two very different paintings from his "Butterfly" series, in which actual butterflies are affixed to the paintings, and one of his post-minimal "Medicine Cabinets." It's apparent that Hirst is brilliant, with an eye for beauty, though his mind goes in for ugliness. Through August 30 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org. Reviewed October 16.

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Lewis McInnis et al. This very handsome set of three interconnected solos acts like a group exhibit since all three artists work in variations of pure abstraction. The first is Lewis McInnis — Painting. McInnis is interested in painting patterns, and even though there's a geometric organization on which the compositions are based, he smudges the paint so that the margins are soft, and his color choices are inspired and sensitive. Second is Michael Burnett — Painting & Monoprints. Burnett's pieces are more freely composed, often incorporating open oval shapes scattered randomly across the picture; in some, there's an odd, if interesting implication of three-dimensionality. The last of the trio is Mark Castator — Sculpture. Castator does totem-like towers made from cut and welded tubular metal shapes. They have a heavy-duty quality but simultaneously have a visual lightness. They look very good as indoor works, yet it's very easy to imagine them installed outdoors, too. Through May 23 at Space Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, www.spacegallery.com. Reviewed May 14.

New & Noteworthy. Alice Zrebiec is astoundingly well versed in the field of quilts, which makes her the ideal textile curator at the Denver Art Museum, an institution with a world-class assortment of them. For the latest show on quilts in the Neusteter Gallery, on the sixth floor of the DAM's Ponti building, Zrebiec has put together a show that's anchored by a recent acquisition, an early nineteenth-century album quilt — the Hopkins Family quilt — which is surrounded by nine others from the same era. The Hopkins Family quilt — the 'new' in the exhibit's title — has a white field on which a red grid of lines divides the surface up into a set of individual frames in which different motifs, including flowers, musical instruments, a mantle and a sailing ship, among other everyday things about the family, are presented. The other quilts — the 'noteworthy' part — are of widely different types, including an impressive bridal quilt, an autograph quilt (where donors had a calligrapher sign their names in the various fabric blocks) and even a quilt inspired by Old Glory. Through December 31 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-913-0096, www.denverartmuseum.org.

The Psychedelic Experience. The AIGA graphics curator, Darrin Alfred, has only been on the job at the Denver Art Museum for a year, and already he's the author of a major blockbuster, The Psychedelic Experience: Rock Posters From the San Francisco Bay Area. Alfred selected around 300 posters from a gift of more than 800 relevant pieces from Boulder collector David Tippit. A connoisseur, Tippit sought examples that were in the finest condition available and those that were artist-signed. Alfred uses the show to feature the principal artists involved in the movement and exhibits the work of each in separate sections. This was a smart move, since it conveys the idea that a range of sensibilities, including art nouveau, surrealism and pop art, among other sources, came together to form the psychedelic poster style. Specialists in the field have identified a big five, but Alfred doesn't agree, so there are seven stars (one of which is a team) in this exhibit: Lee Conklin, Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley & Stanley Mouse, Bonnie MacLean, Victor Moscoso, David Singer and Wes Wilson. Through July 19 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. www.denverartmuseum.org.

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