Barbara Takenaga and Mary Ehrin. These two solos feature contemporary work that's informed by the influence of nature. Barbara Takenaga: Fade Away & Radiate, comprises a nice selection of abstracts by a New York artist who lived for many years in Colorado. Mary Ehrin: Rockspace is an installation by a noted Colorado conceptualist. Takenaga is a dot painter who uses repeated ovoid forms to create elaborate compositions that have a cosmic feeling, as though we're looking at the universe, with its rigid ordering of physical forces. The shapes are organized like whirling galaxies in outer space, with the compositions radiating out of the center of the pictures. Ehrin has designed a lattice screen divider made of wooden boards through which visitors need to pass in order to enter Rockspace, which continues the sci-fi feeling already expressed by the cosmic Takenagas. There are low slab tables covered in white laminate on which Ehrin has placed rock-like sculptures in spare arrangements. Taken together, especially given the unnatural-looking rocks, Rockspace looks like part of a set for Star Trek. Through June 20, Rule Gallery, 227 Broadway, 303-777-9473, www.rulegallery.com. Reviewed June 4.
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Marecak. This is a major retrospective of the work of Edward and Donna Marecak. Edward was a painter and printmaker who came to study at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center School in the 1940s. In 1947 he married Donna, who was a potter. Donna would often throw pots and then decorate them according to Edward's designs. The pair's creative heyday was the 1950s and '60s, but both were rediscovered by the local art world in the 1990s, right after Edward died and Donna had retired. There are a number of unusual pieces here, including several examples of abstraction by Edward, who was better known for his figural compositions, and a large and handsome collection of Donna's precisely thrown and gorgeously decorated pots that have only rarely been exhibited before. The gallery is owned by Randy Roberts and directed by veteran art professional Paul Hughes, a longtime supporter of the Marecaks; it is dedicated to promoting the historic modern art of Colorado. Through July 3 at Z Art Department, 1136 North Speer Boulevard, 303-298-8432, firstname.lastname@example.org.
New & Noteworthy. Alice Zrebiec is the ideal textile curator at the Denver Art Museum, an institution with a world-class assortment of them. The latest Zrebiac show is 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 has a white field on which a red grid of lines divides the surface up into a set of individual frames where different motifs, including flowers, musical instruments, a mantle and a sailing ship, among other everyday things, are presented. The rest of the quilts 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.
Phil Bender and Monique Crine
Phil Bender and Monique Crine. Phil Bender is Colorado's best-known conceptualist and could also be called "Mr. Pirate," since he's the only one of the famous co-op's founders still involved with the place some 25 years after it opened. In all that time, he's tirelessly produced work based on a single, simple idea that has had limitless possibilities: arranging found objects in lines, grids or stacks. The tour de force in his current annual outing in the main space is a group of installations against the back wall. In the center are kids' Halloween masks flanked on both sides by stacks of boxed board games on stands; beyond them are grids of cereal-box fronts. In the Associates Space is a very impressive suite of hyperrealist portraits titled Monique Crine: Baldock. Crine only recently joined Pirate, but her first show is a knockout. The gorgeous paintings are meticulously done in grisaille; they depict a group of women in a small town on the shores of Lake Erie who were friends with someone who was murdered by her adopted son. Through June 21 at Pirate: Contemporary Art, 3655 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058, www.pirateartonline.org.
Rex Ray. The Promenade Space on the second floor of MCA Denver is both a passageway and an exhibition hall. Given its limited size and unconventional plan, the Promenade has been used exclusively for single installations. The latest example is an untitled mural by San Francisco artist Rex Ray, who used to live in Colorado. Ray has a national reputation based not just on his fine art, but as a designer of everything from books to coffee mugs. Ray created the mural specifically for this show and specially designed the fabulous wallpaper that surrounds it. The mural is signature Ray, with shapes that rise from the base in the manner of a still-life or landscape. The shapes have been made from cut-outs of painted papers that have been laid against a stunning blue ground, and were inspired by organic forms, or at least abstractions of them. The wallpaper has a spare, all-over pattern on a white ground, complementing the mural without competing with it. Through January 31 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org.