Denver Artists Guild Founders. The history of the Denver Artists Guild — an early 20th-century group —- is little known, but it's been documented in this show. The exhibit was organized by collectors Deborah Wadsworth and Cynthia Jennings, with a design by Steve Savageau. Wadsworth and Jennings identified 52 artists who founded the Denver Artists Guild in the 1920s and then went looking for examples by each of them. They did a good job sleuthing, though they were unable to find pieces by a dozen of them. There was apparently no quality control for members of the guild, as there is with today's co-ops, so it goes without saying that the work varies in accomplishment, but most of it is pretty good. As could be expected, given Denver's setting, many of the artists chose mountain landscapes as their subjects, with some real knockout pieces, notably those by David Spivak, Albert Bancroft, Charles Des Moineaux and Allen Tupper True. Another category that's well represented is regionalism, and there are even a handful of modernist pieces. Through August 29 at the Denver Central Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-1111, www.denverlibrary.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.
Arlene 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.
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