Allen True's West. Allen Tupper True was Denver's premier muralist during the first third of the twentieth century. Sadly, many of his commissions have been painted over or were lost when the buildings they were in were demolished. Now, the three big cultural institutions on the Civic Center are jointly presenting a three-part blockbuster in True's honor, the first time in many years such a collaboration has been attempted. At the Denver Public Library, on the fifth floor, is Allen True and American Illustration, examining his early work in illustration. At the Denver Art Museum is Allen True the Fine Artist, which examines his easel painting career. And finally, there's Art for the Public: Allen True's Murals, on the lower level of the Colorado History Museum. The shows demonstrate that True was a top talent and will help to correct the fact that he's mostly been forgotten. Through March 28 at the Denver Public Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-1111; the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000; Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway, 303-866-3682, www.coloradohistory.org.
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. Furnas became internationally known for his representational pieces, but everything at MCA is completely abstract, even if the artist sees them as hypothetical landscapes. Through January 10 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org. Reviewed October 15.
Homare Ikeda: Voicers. This exhibit represents a major event based simply on the volume of work alone: It's made up of some two dozen works, all done in the artist's distinctive style. What makes it something special is that Ikeda is not known as a particularly prodigious artist and has sometimes worked on the same piece over several years. An important player on the contemporary scene in Denver who first emerged a couple of decades ago, Ikeda is loosely connected with the neo-expressionist movement. Born in Japan, he developed his own unique approach to doing paintings that are pointedly non-Japanese in character but not particularly American, either. Ikeda densely crams the picture plane with an astounding array of odd, vaguely organic shapes that are juxtaposed with one another in unlikely ways. The compositions themselves are asymmetrical and pointedly out of balance. This imbalance is extended to the painterly technique itself, with some passages being blended in places while others stand out as staccato bursts of color that rise up off the surfaces. Through December 5 at the van Straaten, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585, www.vanstrattengallery.com.
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Allen True's West
Rex Ray. The Promenade Space on the second floor of MCA Denver is both a passageway and an exhibition hall that 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.
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. Through January 3 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576, www.kirklandmuseum.org. Reviewed November 12.