Ary Stillman. Singer gallery director Simon Zalkind is a brilliant curator who has made the humble Mizel Arts & Culture Center an important destination for art lovers. Being a Jewish institution, the Singer often features shows devoted to the efforts of Jewish artists, and that's the case with Ary Stillman: Play of Light: The Journey of an American Modernist, an impressive historical solo that is breathtaking in its scope. Stillman was a Russian immigrant who first settled in Iowa before going to New York and then studying in Paris, returning to the Big Apple just in time for the launch of a homegrown modernist style, abstract expressionism. And although he was recognized and highly regarded during his lifetime, Stillman's accomplishments later fell by the wayside, partly because he moved to Mexico at the end of his life. But with shows like this one, which is based on a book about his work published by the Stillman-Lack Foundation, he's sure to be brought back into the limelight. Through March 10 at the Singer Gallery, Mizel Arts & Culture Center, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360, www.maccjcc.org.
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 April 11 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.
Inner Circle. This striking duet at Space Gallery pairs the recent efforts of mixed-media artist extraordinaire Ryan David Anderson with the non-narrative photographs of emerging artist Aaron Jones. Since Anderson does abstracts that refer to ceramics, it might seem strange — conceptually, at least — to put his work together with that of a photographer, but it works, with the divergent styles being exceedingly simpatico. Much of the connection has to do with the fact that both artists employ the circle as a compositional device. Anderson's pieces sport unusual finishes that he creates using materials as varied as clay and spray paint. He allows these substances to show off their natural attributes, especially the odd effects they exhibit as they dry. Jones takes color shots of actual things, but by using filters, he makes them look otherworldly. As a chaser, the gallery has installed a show that includes pieces by Mark Castator, Stephen Shachtman, Sarah Fox, Haze Diedrich, Michael Burnett and Lewis McInnis. Through February 28 at Space Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive, 720-904-1088, www.spacegallery.org. Reviewed February 19.
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