At approximately this time every year since the 1970s, the Foothills Art Center (809 15th Street, Golden, 303-279-3922) has presented the area's most important ceramics group show. No surprise, then, that the current version, Colorado Clay Exhibition, 2003, is really great.

The annual show is juried, and this year's celebrity juror was internationally known Arizona potter Don Reitz. Breaking with tradition, Reitz included a lot fewer artists than usual, only twenty, allowing him to sample each artist in some depth, which is another change from past years.

Functional potters -- Reitz himself is one -- are well-represented in Colorado Clay. Among the most impressive things in the show are the woven pieces in simple shapes, by Michael Wisner from Snowmass Village; the presentation pots in wild shapes, by Idledale's Bob Smith; and the bottles and baskets in archetypal shapes, by Peter Main from Lake City.

Other standouts are found in the realm of non-functional ceramics, notably sculpture. There are the creepy head sculptures, including two depicting Elvis, by Denver's Ted Fish, and the very different goofy head sculptures, by Scott Place from Arvada, which are expertly modeled and glazed.

Some of the best ceramics are installations, in particular, "Loops" (pictured) by Denver's Judith Cohn. It's truly wonderful, but it has not been displayed to its advantage at Foothills. The beautifully glazed loops of clay that make up the piece have been arranged on a muslin sheet, which gives the whole thing an unwelcome, unfinished quality. It looked a lot better when it was seen at Spark last year, sitting directly on the painted wood-plank floor there. But just like then, the components of "Loops" -- the loops themselves -- still remind me of Ikebana vessels. Another interesting installation is "Archway #5" by Peter Durst, one of a number of pieces by this high-profile Denver artist.

Usually Colorado Clay enjoys a six-week run at Foothills, but the vagaries of scheduling dictated that this time, it would only get a five-week slot. That means it's closing sooner than we might expect, on May 4, which, as it turns out, is this very weekend.


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