Now Showing

Capsule reviews of current exhibits

Barbara Takenaga and Mary Ehrin. These two solos feature contemporary work that's informed by the influence of nature. Barbara Takenaga: Fade Away & Radiate, comprises a nice selection of abstracts by a New York artist who lived for many years in Colorado. Mary Ehrin: Rockspace is an installation by a noted Colorado conceptualist. Takenaga is a dot painter who uses repeated ovoid forms to create elaborate compositions that have a cosmic feeling, as though we're looking at the universe, with its rigid ordering of physical forces. The shapes are organized like whirling galaxies in outer space, with the compositions radiating out of the center of the pictures. Ehrin has designed a lattice screen divider made of wooden boards through which visitors need to pass in order to enter Rockspace, which continues the sci-fi feeling already expressed by the cosmic Takenagas. There are low slab tables covered in white laminate on which Ehrin has placed rock-like sculptures in spare arrangements. Taken together, especially given the unnatural-looking rocks, Rockspace looks like part of a set for Star Trek. Through June 20, Rule Gallery, 227 Broadway, 303-777-9473, Reviewed June 4.

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, Reviewed October 16.

Jean Schiff and Angela Larson. Jean Schiff: Leftovers, a retrospective at Spark, lays out the artist's signature drawing style as being an amalgam of influences ranging from storybook illustrations to pop art posters. Schiff's drawings sport complicated compositions in which depictions of people and animals are scattered across the surfaces. In line with her chosen medium of drawing, her palette is dominated by dusty pastel tones, adding an undeniably feminine aspect. She did her graduate studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and there's clearly a connection between her efforts and those of Frank Sampson, one of her teachers there; both embraced a magic-realist approach. Schiff, who died just days before this show opened, had an art career that spanned five decades. She was also a professor at Metropolitan State College for 26 years. Another solo at Spark is Angela Larson: Pathways, featuring a body of easel-sized abstract works, some on multiple panels, in which linear elements divide up monochrome color fields. As the exhibit's subtitle suggests, the lines are reminiscent of paths. Through June 14 at Spark Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200,

Marecak. This is a major retrospective of the work of husband and wife artists Edward and Donna Marecak, key figures in the history of modern art in Colorado. Edward was a painter and printmaker who came to study at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center School in the 1940s. In 1947 he married Donna, who was a potter. Donna would often throw the pots and then decorate them according to Edward's designs. The pair's creative heyday was the 1950s and '60s, but both were rediscovered by the local art world in the 1990s, right after Edward died and Donna had retired. There are a number of unusual pieces in this impressive duet, including several examples of abstraction by Edward, who was better known for his figural compositions, and a large and handsome collection of Donna's precisely thrown and gorgeously decorated pots that have only rarely been exhibited before. The gallery is owned by Randy Roberts and directed by veteran art professional Paul Hughes, a longtime supporter of the Marecaks; it is dedicated to promoting the historic modern art of Colorado. Through July 3 at Z Art Department, 1136 North Speer Boulevard, 303-298-8432,

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,

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