Damien Hirst. You'd have to be living under a rock — or have absolutely no interest in contemporary art — not to know that Damien Hirst is a superstar, and that everything he makes is worth millions of dollars apiece. The tight solo at MCA Denver (formerly known as the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver) is not the first time that local art audiences have had a chance to see Hirst's creations in person, but it is his first single-artist show anywhere in the American West. Hirst's "Natural History" series of dead animals in cases is surely his most famous type of work. There's an incredible one in the MCA show called "Saint Sebastian: Exquisite Pain," made up of a bullock that's been pierced with arrows. It's simultaneously compelling and repellent. "Saint Sebastian" dominates the Large Works Gallery, but there are three other Hirst pieces, including two very different paintings from his "Butterfly" series, in which actual butterflies are affixed to the paintings, and one of his post-minimal "Medicine Cabinets." It's apparent that Hirst is brilliant, with an eye for beauty, though his mind goes in for ugliness. Through August 30 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org. Reviewed October 16.
Emilio Lobato, David Mazza and Dale Chisman. The main attraction at Havu is Emilio Lobato: De Veras, featuring an eye-dazzling display of paintings that rely on the horizontal line for their visual interest. Lobato is well known, with a distinguished career that dates back several decades. Some of the amazing attributes associated with him are his fine technical skills, his boundless creativity and his staggeringly dedicated work ethic, which results in a mind-dizzying number of artworks. For this show alone, he did nearly fifty new pieces! Sprinkled throughout the main floor are sculptures that make up David Mazza: New Works. Mazza has made a name for himself with zigzagging spires of metal, sometimes painted with automotive lacquers, at other times finished so that the natural characteristics of the material show through. Upstairs on the mezzanine at Havu is Dale Chisman 1943-2008, which looks at the artist's works on paper. These incredible monotypes and mixed-media works were commissioned by gallery owner Bill Havu between 1987 and 1997. Through February 21 at the William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, www.williamhavugallery.com. Reviewed February 5.
Emmett Culligan + Robert Delaney + Jeff Wenzel. This impressive group effort, installed by Ron Judish, aims the spotlight on some notable accomplishments by a trio of Denver artists, and exhibition visitors should be forgiven for thinking that they've walked into a museum instead of another commercial gallery on Santa Fe. Running down the center of the main south space are three large and seemingly very heavy Culligan sculptures made of steel, limestone and polished marble from his "Crew" series. Displayed throughout all three spaces are aluminum and steel mobiles and kinetic sculptures by Delaney. Among the three artists, Wenzel has been given the lion's share of the display space, with his works filling the walls of the south gallery and winding around into the large center space, where they take over the principal wall. It's hard to pick a favorite among them because they're all so good. They prove that Wenzel's an expert abstractionist who has gotten a lot of mileage out of his elaborate and idiosyncratic method that features painting, tearing and repainting. Through March 7 at Gallery T, 878-2 Santa Fe Drive, 303-893-0960, www.galleryt.org.
Emmett Culligan + Robert Delaney + Jeff Wenzel
Shooting the West et al. Photography has a special place in the American West, as cameras arrived with some of the very first pioneers and scouts. This makes sense, because the West was settled at precisely the same time as photography was coming of age. The Arvada Center is currently presenting three photo shows about our region — two based on historic material and one combining both old and new pieces. Upstairs are the two history shows. William J. Collins Photography: The Vanishing West, the Developing West examines the work of a documentarian active in the early twentieth century, while Edward S. Curtis: Photographs of Native Americans is a portfolio of the great artist's famous nineteenth-century sepia-toned portraits. Downstairs is the large and impressive Shooting the West, which includes pieces by the late Otto Roach and his protegé, Dutch Walla, as well as lens legend Hal Gould and contemporary practitioners such as Chuck Forsman, Robert Adams, Eric Paddock, Kevin O'Connell, David Sharpe, Scott Engel and others. Through February 22 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, 720-898-7200, www.arvadacenter.org.
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