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.
Fifty Years of Colorado Art. Ever since the turn of the twentieth century, there's been increasing interest in our state's impressive art history. Several galleries and independent art dealers have served this need, and now there's one more: Z Art Department, which was just opened by Randy Roberts. The gallery is located between two operations owned by Roberts, Zeitgeist and Z Modern, which focus on vintage design and new design, respectively. Z Art Department will specialize in regional art from the 1930s to the 1980s, with the first show called Fifty Years of Colorado Art: 1937-1987. Roberts has gathered up a marvelous selection; the oldest is a painting of a cottage in the woods by John Edward Thompson, Colorado's first modernist. There are a number of works by Denver's own Edward Marecak, as well as Herbert Bayer from Aspen, both of whom are slated for solo exhibits at Z in the near future. Also represented in this inaugural show are painters Charles Bunnell, Mina Conant and Mark Travis, and sculptor Edgar Britton. Through April 30 at Z Art Department, 1136 North Speer Boulevard, 303-298-8432, firstname.lastname@example.org.
New & Noteworthy. Alice Zrebiec is astoundingly well versed in the field of quilts, which makes her the ideal textile curator at the Denver Art Museum, an institution with a world-class assortment of them. For the latest show on quilts in the Neusteter Gallery, on the sixth floor of the DAM's Ponti building, Zrebiec has put together a show that's anchored by a recent acquisition, an early nineteenth-century album quilt — the Hopkins Family quilt — which is surrounded by nine others from the same era. The Hopkins Family quilt — the 'new' in the exhibit's title — has a white field on which a red grid of lines divides the surface up into a set of individual frames in which different motifs, including flowers, musical instruments, a mantle and a sailing ship, among other everyday things about the family, are presented. The other quilts — the 'noteworthy' part — are of widely different types, including an impressive bridal quilt, an autograph quilt (where donors had a calligrapher sign their names in the various fabric blocks) and even a quilt inspired by Old Glory. Through December 31 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-913-0096, www.denverartmuseum.org.
Parallel Lines. Pirate: Contemporary Art was once one of the city's most significant art venues, and although that's no longer true, it's still a place to find interesting material. Currently in the front space is Parallel Lines, a loosely organized group show based on personal relationships between the artists involved rather than the connections between their oeuvres. The exhibit was organized by Jesus Polanco, who once lived in Denver and will soon be moving to Berlin. He came up with the idea as a way of celebrating the encouragement he was shown when he was an emerging artist twenty years ago by the late Dale Chisman. The show includes a magnificent Chisman painting and a handful of works done collaboratively by he and Polanco. Other Colorado artists who were cheered on by Chisman include Steve Alarid, whose Pirate show slot this is, and Brian Comber. Also on view are a few works by Jared Deery, a friend of Polanco's who lives in New York. From a stylistic or aesthetic standpoint, there's nothing that holds the show together, but that doesn't mean it isn't magical, because it is. Through March 29 at Pirate: Contemporary Art, 3655 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058, www.pirateart.org.
The Psychedelic Experience. The AIGA graphics curator, Darrin Alfred, has only been on the job at the Denver Art Museum for a year, and already he's the author of a major blockbuster, The Psychedelic Experience: Rock Posters From the San Francisco Bay Area. Alfred selected around 300 posters from a gift of more than 800 relevant pieces from Boulder collector David Tippett. A connoisseur, Tippett sought examples that were in the finest condition available and those that were artist-signed. Alfred uses the show to feature the principal artists involved in the movement, and exhibits the work of each in separate sections. This was a smart move, since it conveys the idea that a range of sensibilities, including art nouveau, surrealism and pop art, among other sources, came together to form the psychedelic poster style. Specialists in the field have identified a big five, but Alfred doesn't agree, so there are seven stars (one of which is a team) in this exhibit: Lee Conklin, Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley & Stanley Mouse, Bonnie MacLean, Victor Moscoso, David Singer and Wes Wilson. Through July 19 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. www.denverartmuseum.org.
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