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Be a Cloud not a Grid. Vertigo Art Space owner Kara Duncan invited well-known Denver artist Theresa Anderson to curate a show, which resulted in Be a Cloud not a Grid. And although Vertigo is fairly compact, the show's charisma makes it look bigger than it is. Anderson's selections are diverse, reflecting a deeply personal approach to the material and showing off her broad art interests. In fact, it could be said that there's almost a free-associational quality to her choices — and perhaps only Anderson fully understands the connections. A number of the artists included have created small installations. Some of the standouts are those by Jaime Carrejo featuring blankets, cut paper and plastic chain; Laura Shill's site-specific installation following the profile of the staircase; and two Zach Reini works — a wall piece that looks something like a traditional Japanese brush painting, and an ironic welcome mat below. The one piece that best expresses the show's title is Rebecca Vaughan's "Medallions," which consists of white boxes in conventionalized cloud shapes. Through March 8 at Vertigo Art Space, 960 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8378, vertigoartspace.com. Reviewed February 20.

Critical Focus: Ian Fisher. This show, located in the informal Whole Room at MCA Denver, is made up of a group of mostly monumental paintings of the sky. It's the type of thing that has become the artist's signature. Though Fisher begins with photographs of clouds used as studies, the resulting compositions, though photographically accurate in their details, are clearly painted and not mechanical reproductions. Fisher has eliminated any reference to the ground — in essence, freeing the sky element of a classic landscape painting from its moorings — and that provides just enough frisson to give the traditionally painted renditions of clouds a contemporary feel. And though they all share the same formal vocabulary, the palettes of the paintings are diverse, reflecting the different atmospheric conditions each depicts. The show was curated by the MCA's Nora Burnett Abrams, who has laudably been mining the local scene to find subjects for museum shows — as she did with Fisher — and in the process giving them a breakthrough opportunity to promote their talents. Through April 13 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, mcadenver.org.

Nature as Muse. This homegrown blockbuster — part of the Passport to Paris series — was curated by Denver Art Museum director Christoph Heinrich, who's proven over and over that he's a curator at heart. To organize it, Heinrich mined the rich vein of impressionism in the museum's permanent collection and combined works from it with selections from the collection of Frederic C. Hamilton, for whom the wing is named. These Hamilton paintings have for the most part not been exhibited in public in anyone's memory. The show starts with the foundational work of the realists and quickly shifts to the pioneering work of the impressionists; then there's a section devoted to American followers of the French-based movement, and finally, a salute to Monet, the star of Nature as Muse, many of whose paintings are included, notably the DAM's "Waterloo Bridge." In fact, right now there are eleven Monets on view at the DAM — an unprecedented number for Denver — with eight of them being paintings, and all but two of those are in this show. Through March 23 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, denverartmuseum.org; tickets are required. Reviewed November 28.

Out of Line. For this show, Jim Robischon and Jennifer Doran brought together artists working in conceptual abstraction, with all but two of them exploring post-minimal or post-pattern work. As is usual at Robischon, the work of Colorado artists is displayed alongside the work of established talents from elsewhere, creating an even playing field for the homegrown talent. The show opens with a selection of off-kilter abstracts by New York's Jason Karolak. In a niche are four luscious striped paintings by Colorado artist Wendi Harford. Beyond are conceptual deconstructions of geometry by New Mexico's Ted Larsen. Past the Larsen iron screen are marvelously iconic Derrick Velasquez sculptures, in which lengths of vinyl are draped over wooden wall mounts. In the space to the left, Colorado's Kate Petley riffs off mid-century abstraction with resin panels in which vaporous forms float beneath the surface. Behind is a computer panel by Annica Cuppetelli + Cristobal Mendoza whose lights change in their intensity. Finally, there are Bernar Venet prints depicting his sculptures that look abstract but are not. Through March 8 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, robischongallery.com. Reviewed February 20.

 
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