Adam Helms. This MCA solo is the New York artist's first museum show anywhere. In his works on paper and in a monumental sculpture that conjures up a shooting blind, Helms explores political themes, especially armed struggle. He takes images of different radical and extremist movements from different places and times and makes copies, then combines them into singular images to create archetypes. In "Shadow: Portrait of a Jihadi," for instance, Helms has taken a shot of what looks like an American soldier in 1960s Vietnam and blackened out the face in the manner of the hooded Islamic terrorists of today. His technique is as interesting as his imagery; in this piece, he has silkscreen-printed both sides of a sheet of translucent vellum, lending it an almost hallucinogenic character. Through January 18 at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The fall opener at the Center for Visual Art is a conscientious survey of the careers of Christo and Jeanne-Claude as seen through their personal print collection documenting their pioneering conceptual work that began in the 1960s. The exhibit, which includes more than a hundred works of art, is a major effort and clearly proves that, like Warhol, Christo and Jeanne-Claude were accurately anticipating the direction of contemporary art over the intervening four decades. Beginning in 1963, Christo began to fantasize about covering landmarks around the world in cloth secured by cables. The show includes ideas such as covering the Flatiron Building in New York, the Pont Alexandre in Paris, and the Vittorio Emanuele monument in Milan. The prints and drawings are all credited solely to Christo, while credit for the environmental pieces, like "Over the River," is shared with Jeanne-Claude. "Over the River" is set for Southern Colorado and will be the second piece by the artists in the state; "Valley Curtain" was installed in Rifle Gap back in the '70s.Through November 1 at the Metro State College Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207, www.metrostatecva.org. Reviewed September 4.
Three on Fire. Surely one of the smartest moves Sandra Phillips has made is to use her namesake gallery to feature contemporary ceramics. Three on Fire, which showcases the work of three nationally significant artists, is the latest in an ongoing series on the topic. The artists are Maynard Tischler and Martha Daniels, both of whom are associated with Colorado, and Don Reitz, who lives in Arizona. Though Three on Fire is mostly about ceramics, it's impossible to ignore the show-stopping wall hangings by Tischler, who has been associated with pop art since the 1960s. In this category is "This Is Not a Model," a hyper-realistic version of a World War II-era tank. Daniels, who recently relocated from Colorado to New Mexico, is represented by some large floor sculptures and a group of zany takes on tea bowls. The last of the trio is legendary studio ceramicist Don Reitz, whose work is in museums around the world. Through November 1 at Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-5969, www.thesandraphillipsgallery.com. Reviewed September 25.
Three on Fire
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Mark Travis: A Memorial Exhibit. Last winter, Mark Travis, a Denver contemporary artist who had made his reputation in the go-go scene of the 1980s, died. Michael Burnett, who runs Space Gallery, had asked Travis to create a body of political work to be presented during the Democratic National Convention, so when Travis died, Burnett decided to do a show based on the works in the artist's studio instead, most of which were done in the last few years. His classic work, created in the '80s and early '90s, was entirely abstract, with the best pieces being mammoth mixed-media combine paintings that incorporated scraps of wood and metal Travis found in his downtown neighborhood. In recent years, however, he increasingly embraced figural abstraction, inserting nude depictions of women into the middle of his abstractions. These vaporous figure studies came to completely dominate his pictures. This later figural abstraction is the kind of work that makes up the Space show, with female nudes seeming to emerge from the murky, all-over grounds. Through October 11 at Space Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, www.spacegallery.org.