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Capsule reviews of current exhibits

James Dormer & Paul Flippen. It's really amazing how little known most of the artists working in northern Colorado are in Denver. And the two being featured at Translations Gallery in LoDo are excellent cases in point. James Dormer is nationally recognized as a printmaker, with one of his prints having been recently acquired by Connecticut's Center for Contemporary Printmaking; he's also been on the faculty of Colorado State University for nearly forty years. Yet his work is rarely seen here in Denver. Though Dormer's prints are based on natural subjects, they appear to be completely abstract and are examples of classic modernism. The other half of the duet, Paul Flippen, also works with printmaking techniques but combines these methods with painting and drawing. He, too, is on the CSU art faculty. Unlike Dormer, his work is clearly postmodern in style, combining wallpaper-like patterns with images of recognizable objects, including binoculars and flowers. Through September 15 at Translations Gallery, 1743 Wazee Street, 303-629-0713,

Rex Ray. The Promenade Space on the second floor of MCA Denver is both a passageway and an exhibition hall. Given its limited size and unconventional plan — the main wall runs diagonally to the windows opposite it — the Promenade has been used exclusively for single installations. The latest example is an untitled mural by San Francisco artist Rex Ray, who used to live in Colorado. Ray has a national reputation based not just on his fine art, but as a designer of everything from books to coffee mugs. Ray created the mural specifically for this show and specially designed the fabulous wallpaper that surrounds it. The mural is signature Ray, with shapes that rise from the base in the manner of a still-life or landscape. The shapes have been made from cut-outs of painted papers that have been laid against a stunning blue ground, and were inspired by organic forms, or at least abstractions of them, as seen in mid-century modern design. The wallpaper has a spare, all-over pattern on a white ground, complementing the mural without competing with it. Through January 31 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554,

Robert Kushner and Arlene Shechet. New York artist Robert Kushner, who first came to prominence as a performance artist in the 1970s, creates paintings and works on paper based on flowers. His Denver representative, the van Straaten Gallery, is presenting a handsome selection of both in this impressive exhibit. There's a decidedly post-pop-art quality to the paintings, in which large, simplified renditions of flowers are carried out in bright colors that have been accented with glitter, of all things. The works on paper have a much quieter appeal, though Kushner gets a little theatrical by using shiny metallic foils in some of them. The Kushners take up most of the front part of the gallery and have been paired with Arlene Shechet's monotypes in the back. These were done at Riverhouse Editions, a Steamboat Springs-based printmaker associated with the gallery. Shechet is also from New York and is currently the subject of a solo at MCA Denver. The monotypes at van Straaten, done with watercolors, depict abstracted scenes made up of silhouettes of vessels. Through August 29 at van Straaten Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585,

Systems of Knowing. Artist R. Justin Stewart, who has a RedLine residency right now, is the author of a compelling installation exhibit, Systems of Knowing, at Plus Gallery. The show is made up of five separate yet interrelated installations. Every one of them comprises a set of drawings hanging on the wall and a small sculpture placed nearby on a shallow plinth on the floor. The drawings and their related sculptures are literally connected to one another by a red line. Stewart is interested in laying out the way ideas can be translated and transformed from one medium to another — in this case, from drawings to sculptures. In this way, he hopes to illustrate the nature of ideas. Stewart uses drawings of circles done in layers to develop the basic designs. He then carries out the same ideas in the three-dimensional works. For the sculptures, he employs humble materials such as twist ties and plastic o-rings. Because the installations are made of repeated identical elements, they conceptually link up with contemporary ideas about pattern-building and fractals. Through August 28 at Plus Gallery, 2501 Larimer Street, 303-296-0927, Reviewed August 13.

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