Charles Parson. This must-see sculpture solo titled Charles Parson: Personal Echoes on the Horizon, at Golden's Foothills Art Center, begins out front with a trio of hieratically composed tubular metal sculptures — basically gongs. The viewer/participant is meant to strike the gongs with clappers that are chained to them. This kind of interaction between art and people is what this show is about; the included pieces are industrial in their detailing, but done on a human-based scale. Inside, in addition to some uncharacteristic landscape drawings and a facsimile of Parson's studio, is a group of metal and acrylic wall-mounted sculptures based on the size of his children's feet when they started to walk (they're grown up now); beyond that are several ambitious steel and mixed-material installations that are something like gazebos. These large structures, some of which have audio components, are meant to be entered by viewers, who then become active, if temporary, parts of them. Through August 2 at Foothills Art Center, 809 15th Street, Golden, 303-279-3922, www.foothillsartcenter.org. Reviewed July 16.
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.
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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.
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.
Robert Kushner andArlene Shechet. New York artist Robert Kushner, who first came to prominence as a performance artist in the 1970s, creates paintings and works on paper based on flowers. His Denver representative, the van Straaten Gallery, is presenting a handsome selection of both in this impressive exhibit. There's a decidedly post-pop-art quality to the paintings, in which large, simplified renditions of flowers are carried out in bright colors that have been accented with glitter, of all things. The works on paper have a much quieter appeal, though Kushner gets a little theatrical by using shiny metallic foils in some of them. The Kushners take up most of the front part of the gallery and have been paired with Arlene Shechet's monotypes in the back. These were done at Riverhouse Editions, a Steamboat Springs-based printmaker associated with the gallery. Shechet is also from New York and is currently the subject of a solo at MCA Denver. The monotypes at van Straaten, done with watercolors, depict abstracted scenes made up of silhouettes of vessels. Through August 29 at van Straaten Gallery, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585, www.vanStraatenGallery.com.
Trace (Figurative). Metro State Center for Visual Art director Jennifer Garner has taken a look at figural art that is, to say the least, offbeat. She's selected four artists who don't depict the figure, but rather directly refer to it. There are some stomach-turning aspects to this show, with dirty footprints, wads of hair out of drains, sweat stains on fabric and blood used to make the pieces. But far from being a gross-out fest, the exhibit is actually filled with thoughtful pieces, some of which are even conventionally beautiful. The works are abstract, but the content is conceptual, as indicated by the strange materials. The display gets under way with paintings by Jason Lee Gimbel made up of canvases covered with his footprints. Then there's a section given over to those wads of hair, done in digitized prints on paper by Nigel Poor. Probably the most compelling pieces are installations of sweat-stained cloth stitched together by Heather Doyle-Maier. The last of the quartet of body-snatchers is Denis Roussel, who uses digitized photos of smears of blood. Through August 13 at the Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207, www.metrostatecva.org. Reviewed July 16.