Barnaby Furnas: Floods. Furnas is a New York artist who's been exhibiting his work since 2000, and this exhibit, in the MCA's Large Works Gallery, is made up entirely of his large abstract paintings. A unique feature of Furnas's personal history is his early embrace of watercolors as his medium. The watercolor method has been out of fashion for fifty years or more and is almost exclusively used today by Sunday painters who typically depict fruit and flowers, so the artist's decision to take it up was a courageous one. The paintings at MCA are not watercolors, but Furnas points out that since they're acrylics, they're water-based and thus behave in some of the same ways. The "Flood" works are large — most notably, "The Whale," which is thirty feet long and was painted on site in the gallery with an audience, no less. Furnas became internationally known in the last few years with representational pieces, but everything at MCA is completely abstract, even if Furnas sees them as hypothetical landscapes. Through January 10 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org. Reviewed October 15.
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Martha Russo. One of the region's top contemporary artists, Martha Russo is the subject of an impressive solo, Martha Russo: ana lineament muse, at the Phillip J. Steele Gallery East at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Russo, who teaches ceramics at RMCAD, is best known for her "Nomos" series, and some of its pieces have been exhibited nationally. For these incredible assemblages, Russo creates hundreds of tendril-like shapes in clay and then covers either floor-bound constructions or curtain-like wall pieces with them. She also does other things connected to the "Nomos," but they are also clearly different, like sculptures that refer to internal organs, with earthy finishes and organic shapes reminiscent of the "Nomos" pieces. There's also an installation made up of tiny clay sculptures based on a variety of forms, both natural and manufactured, displayed on a custom-made mirror-topped table. Through November 21 at the Phillip J. Steele Gallery East, 1600 Pierce Street, 303-753-6046, www.rmcad.edu.
Robert Mangold. The dean of Denver's modern sculptors is the subject of a solo for the first time in more than four years. Simply titled Robert Mangold, it is made up of fairly recent work and contains examples of many well-known series, including his famous "Anemotive Kinetics," which are wind-driven spheres made up of colorful metal scoops mounted on rods, and his "PTTSAAES," sculptures, which do not move but are meant to suggest movement. These linear compositions purportedly record the hypothetical and seemingly random movements of an object as suggested by the acronym that stands for "Point Traveling Through Space at an Erratic Speed." A special feature of this exhibit is the fact that it almost didn't happen, since the seventy-something Mangold had a brush with death last year and might not have been around to complete the pieces. It's an absolute must-see. Through December 25 at Artyard Contemporary Sculpture, 1251 South Pearl Street, 303-777-3219, www.artyardsculpture.com.
Shape & Spirit. This wonderful selection of antique bamboo articles is the first show in the newly unveiled Walter and Mona Lutz Gallery on the fifth floor of the Denver Art Museum's Ponti building. Walter and Mona Lutz, for whom the gallery is named, began collecting bamboo from throughout Japan, where they lived; in the 1960s, they expanded their collecting to include bamboo pieces from the rest of Asia. The couple collected ahead of the curve, allowing them to find exquisite things in a wide range of categories. There are baskets, of course, which is what most people might think of when the idea of objects made of bamboo comes up, but there are also sculptures and lanterns, fans and brush-pots, trays and tea-ceremony utensils, among a wide range of both decorative and utilitarian objects. For Shape & Spirit, curator Ron Otsuka selected 200 items from the Lutz collection, which have been given to the DAM. And he has intelligently and beautifully installed them in minimalist-designed showcases made especially for the new gallery. Through March 31 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-866-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org.
Streams of Modernism. A smart-looking survey of modern design put together by guest curators Katherine and Michael McCoy, this show features some of the many important pieces of furniture — mostly chairs — that are part of the Kirkland's impressive permanent collection. The McCoys' narrative is that designers influence one another, and they've taken a doctrinaire approach to the topic, creating a direct line that connects early-twentieth-century vanguard works to pieces done in the late twentieth century. The survey begins with works by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Rennie Mackintosh before moving on to Bauhaus masters like Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer; it continues with objects by the Cranbrook fellows, such as Charles Eames and Harry Bertoia, and concludes with objects by Italian designers of the '50s through the '70s, notably Gio Ponti and Ettore Sottsass. The show is striking, not only because of the pieces included, but also as a result of the installation that incorporates graphics based on portraits of the designers in the show. Through January 3 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576, www.kirklandmuseum.org. Reviewed November 12.