Adam Helms. This solo in the MCA's Paper Works Gallery 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 of them. Then he 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, and 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.
Clay and Glaze. Surely the most inconspicuous of the attractions in and around the Civic Center Cultural Complex is the Byers-Evans House, just west of the Gio Ponti tower of the Denver Art Museum. It is owned and run by the Colorado History Museum, which is just a couple of blocks to the east. Byers-Evans has fully decked out nineteenth-century period rooms, but it also has a gallery that this year has attempted to raise its profile by presenting serious exhibits. The latest is Clay and Glaze: The Ceramic Art of Nan and Jim McKinnell, which examines the individual and collaborative work by this pair of important Colorado artists. Jim was a renowned ceramic engineer and glaze chemist, but interestingly enough, his aesthetic was drawn from Japanese pottery, a predominant influence in mid-twentieth-century ceramics. Nan, on the other hand, was affected more profoundly by modern industrial design, adapting its aesthetic to her thrown and hand-built porcelains. The show briefly surveys sixty years of their work with pieces loaned by Nan (Jim is deceased), their friends and various private collectors. Through October 31 at the Byers-Evans House Gallery, 1310 Bannock Street, 303-620-4933, www.coloradohistory.org.
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Daniel Richter: A Major Survey. Christoph Heinrich, the curator of modern and contemporary art at the Denver Art Museum, must be a workaholic — the latest evidence being this exhibit featuring more than fifty Daniel Richter paintings, most of which are monumental in size. Heinrich sees the youthful Richter as among the most important painters working in Germany today. Richter credits French impressionism among his inspirational sources, but he is more of an heir to early-twentieth-century expressionists like Edvard Munch and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. He is also connected to modernists like Asger Jorn, whom Richter believes to be among his aesthetic foundations. In most of the paintings in the show, Richter has tried to cram as much visual material into his pictures as he can. He also applies paint in many different ways and in an array of hues so that they explode with form and color. This DAM solo reveals Richter's talent and, even more so, his heroic ambition. Through January 11 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed October 9.
Dave Yust: Looking Back/Looking Forward. This show, put together by Collin Parson, is enormous, taking over the Lower Galleries at the Arvada Center. But it's not a retrospective, because it doesn't provide an overview of Yust's career; instead, it focuses on only two types of his work: circular and semi-circular paintings and prints done in the 1970s, and elliptical pieces created in the last couple of years. The differences between the two types are easy to see, and not just because the earlier ones are round and the later ones are oval. Yust's approach to picture-making also changed from the flat, evenly-painted or printed hard-edged works of the '70s to the expressively painted or printed soft-edged feeling of his later efforts. Interestingly, while post-minimalism has brought Yust's earlier aesthetic to the forefront, his newer style is fairly idiosyncratic and doesn't plug in directly to current international trends. Through November 16 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200, www.arvadacenter.org. Reviewed October 2.
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 ceramics artists, is the latest show in a long, 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, who has had an illustrious career and 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.