Charles Parson, Emilio Lobato, Jason Needham. The cavernous Lower Galleries at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities have been given over to the awe-inspiring Charles Parson: Landscape's Sonnet, a huge solo that includes constructivist drawings, wall relief panels, sculptures and installations. As if that isn't enough, Parson also installed two monumental outdoor pieces on the center's grounds, though they're not technically part of the show. In the Upper Galleries is another outstanding solo, Emilio Lobato: Candela: Slow Burn, which is dominated by mixed-media abstract paintings. Relying on his instinctual sense of composition, Lobato assembles ordinary shapes into extraordinarily powerful arrangements. In the Theater Gallery is yet another solo, Jason Needham: Swing Shift, featuring awkwardly composed figural abstractions that draw inspiration from comics. As an added treat, a group of Bryan Andrews's Fetem sculptures are perched on a ledge over the front door. All will run through November 21 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200. Reviewed November 4.
Filters of the Twentieth Century. Over the last couple of decades, there's increasingly been a problem with making neat and tidy distinctions between photojournalism and fine-art photography. Art is exactly what's in store for viewers of Filters of the Twentieth Century: Margaret Bourke-White, Carl Mydans on display at Cherry Creek's Gallery M. True, Bourke-White and Mydans were photojournalists, but their works are examples of fine-art photography anyway. Bourke-White did Life magazine's first cover, "Fort Peck Dam," in 1936; an estate print of it is included at Gallery M. The exhibit also has photos Bourke-White took for Erskine Caldwell's 1939 book, You Have Seen Their Faces, which was her personal response to photos of the rural poor taken for the Farm Service Administration. Like Bourke-White, Mydans was one of the first generation of Life photographers, and before that he worked for the FSA. The show could be criticized for being way too crowded, but considering what it's crowded with -- stunning images by Bourke-White and Mydans -- who cares? Through January 31 at Gallery M, 2830 East Third Avenue, 303-331-8400. Reviewed October 14.
NOT YOUR TYPE. The Singer Gallery at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture is presenting NOT YOUR TYPE: Works in Words by Roland Bernier, Rick Griffith and Martin Mendelsberg, an art show about words. Simon Zalkind, Singer's director, organized the exhibit as the visual-art component of the center's annual Leah Cohen Festival of Books and Authors. Zalkind cleverly put graphics -- a widely seen but rarely exhibited art form -- with that old exhibition workhorse: painting. The lone painter in the show, Roland Bernier, has been using words as an aesthetic device for nearly forty years. Bernier's work looks great next to the graphics of Rick Griffith and Martin Mendelsberg, because they also use words to make their art -- but for different reasons. Bernier is one of the modern masters of the area, and Griffith and Mendelsberg are both extremely well known. It's a diverse group of pieces, but the show is somewhat unified because there are all those words everywhere. Through December 30 at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-399-2660.
PILLish, et al. Cydney Payton, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, has been busy lately. She oversaw the architectural competition to select a designer for the museum's soon-to-be-constructed new building (the winner: David Adjaye), and she's been lining up money to pay for it, which is a full-time job in itself. But somehow she was also able to put together the three shows currently at the MCA. On the main floor is PILLish: Harsh Realities and Gorgeous Destinations, which takes aim at the drug culture, both of the illicit and prescription kind. The exhibit includes a roster of international artists -- among them, Larry Clark, Damien Hirst, Nan Goldin, Takashi Murakami and Fred Tomaselli -- as well as Colorado's own Albert Chong. Closely related in content to PILLish (because it has a medicine chest in it) is Paola Ochoa's True Love, a video installation nestled in a space under the mezzanine. Ochoa was the first artist selected for the MCA's NEW PIC program, which highlights emerging talent. On the mezzanine is Shadows and Fog, a solo by Margaret Neumann, an early exponent of neo-expressionism. All through January 2 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1275 19th Street, 303-298-7554.
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The Quest for Immortality. With the rise of archaeology in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, scientists began excavating Egyptian tombs and discovering a wide array of gorgeous artifacts. This tomb art is what makes the blockbuster currently on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science absolutely fabulous. A traveling exhibit about midway through its coast-to-coast tour, The Quest for Immortality was organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in collaboration with Copenhagen's United Exhibits Group and Cairo's Supreme Council of Antiquities. An army of scientists, curators and scholars worked on it, headed up by Betsy M. Bryan, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The heart of the exhibit includes objects found in the tomb of Thutmose III, as well as an astounding digital re-creation of the tomb itself. The show is jammed with visitors, but don't let all the people -- or the steep ticket prices -- dissuade you: This is one show that you've really got to see to believe. Through January 23 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, 303-322-7009. Reviewed October 7.
Rex Ray: Recent Work. The gorgeous Rex Ray: Recent Work, currently at Rule Gallery, is clearly one of the best shows in memory. On the south wall of the space is an installation called "Wall of Sound," which is made up of nearly 500 different collages on small sheets of paper hung end to end. These paper collages are essentially sketches for the ones on board and canvas. Across from the installation are scores of collages on board that are displayed salon style on the north wall and on the short walls; Ray calls these large pieces on canvas "landscapes." In both types, Ray uses papers he decorated with paint and transfer printing. Most of these works have a mid-century-modernist feel, but rather than looking retro, they have a neo-modern character. Ray has an instinctual sense for composition, and his skill as a colorist is remarkable. Through November 20 at Rule Gallery, 111 Broadway, 303-777-9473. Reviewed October 21.
TIWANAKU. In the Helen Bonfils Stanton Galleries on the first floor of the Denver Art Museum is the unusual show TIWANAKU: Ancestors of the Inca. Tiwanaku was a large city on the shores of Lake Titicaca in the mountains of Bolivia that existed from 200 to 1100 A.D. The people who lived there, called Tiwanaku, were not really ethnically related to the Incas, though the Incas adopted them as their cultural forebears and believed they were gods. Margaret Young-Sánchez, the DAM's pre-Columbian curator, put together the show, which is groundbreaking as a scholarly endeavor. There are nearly a hundred objects, including ritual pieces, ceramics, gold jewelry, pottery and a selection of remarkable textiles. Interestingly, much of the material is not from Tiwanaku, coming instead from the surrounding towns. After all, the Incas -- and then the Spanish -- had looted the place centuries ago, so there's little left. Through January 23 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000.