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.
Kevin O'Connell, David Sharpe and Edie Winograde. Viewers may be forgiven for mistaking this set of three solos for a group effort because there's a seamlessness to the entirety of them. Each of the artists are doing related work (photos of the American West), all of them have long and distinguished careers, and they all live right here in Colorado. In the front spaces is Kevin O'Connell which features color photos depicting the energy industry in the West. In these large pieces, O'Connell focuses on heavy-duty equipment set in the natural environment. In the center spaces is David Sharpe: Eastern Phenomena, made up of large format pinhole photographs that capture the rural life on the flatlands of the plains. Color pinholes are rare, but Sharpe is a master of the technique, and his results are breathtaking. Finally, in the Viewing Room is Edie Winograde: Place and Time, featuring photographs that depict re-creations of historic events. Winograde uses a slow shutter speed so that the action of the figures causes the resulting images to be blurred. Through August 1 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, www.robischongallery.com.
The Magafan Twins. Ethel and Jenne Magafan were identical twins born in Chicago but raised in Denver. In the 1920s, their art teacher at East High School was so impressed with their talent that he paid their tuition to attend Denver's School of Modern Art, run by Frank Mechau; they later studied at the Kirkland School of Art. In the 1930s, the twins followed Mechau to his Redstone studio and then to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center School. They were right in the midst of the regionalist scene here during the Great Depression, and both completed New Deal-era murals: Ethel's is in the South Broadway post office, and Jenne's is at West High School. Colorado Art Before, During and After the Magafan Twins, now at the Kirkland Museum, displays an economical selection of their paintings and prints, using them as anchors for a more broadly based group show. In addition, "The Riders," an ultra-rare and newly acquired painting by Mechau, is also included. Jenne died in the '50s, but Ethel carried on until the 1990s. Through August 2, Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576, www.kirklandmuseum.org. Reviewed July 2.
Kevin O'Connell, David Sharpe and Edie Winograde
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.
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 Tippit. A connoisseur, Tippit 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. Extended through July 26 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed May 21.
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 main wall runs diagonally to the windows opposite it — 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, as seen in mid-century modern design. 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.
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