With the majority of the pieces here, Saito has taken twigs and branches and twisted or woven them into various shapes. For "When the Wind Stopped #10," he's created a tangle of twigs, with the result reminiscent of a tumbleweed. The piece represents a version of a series the artist began back in the '90s, making it a recent example of one of Saito's longest-running formal interests. Baskets and nets are also referred to in some of these works, including "Forest Cradle," which sits on the floor, and "Autumn Nest," which hangs from the wall.

The most powerful works in the show are from Saito's "Colorado Loop" series, in which he has bent twigs into spirals and then cast them in bronze. There are three of these, all gorgeous, but the largest one, "Colorado Loop #3," is by far the most striking. For this work, done last year, the thickest parts of the branches are at the floor, forming an ad hoc base that's integral to the sculpture. The thinner parts of the branches are at the top, with the thinnest bundled together. Though deceptively simple, the "Colorado Loop" pieces have a tremendous dynamism, tension and visual power.

Saito's bronze-casting skills are of the highest order, and he gets amazing detail from the pieces of wood and plants that he uses as his originals. His skill with patinas is also remarkable, and though he prefers the deep browns of traditional sculpture, he also uses verdigris, a blue-green shade, though he does so only sparingly.

"Out and Inside," by Maria Cristina Carlini, Corten steel.
"Out and Inside," by Maria Cristina Carlini, Corten steel.
"Colorado Loop, #3," by Yoshitomo Saito, bronze.
"Colorado Loop, #3," by Yoshitomo Saito, bronze.

Details

Through October 1,Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design,1600 Pierce Street, Lakewood, 303-753-6046, www.rmcad.edu;Auraria Campus,Colfax Avenue and Speer Boulevard, 303-556-8337.Through August 28,Rule Gallery, 227 Broadway, 303-777-9473,www. rulegallery.com.

All in all, it's safe to say that Saito is one of the top sculptors in the state, and since this is his first local solo in three years, it's well worth seeing. Traditionally, summer has been the off-season for the Denver art world — but that's decidedly not the case in 2010. All season long, there's been a dizzying array of art attractions, with Carlini's and Saito's compelling solos near the top of the heap.

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