Colorado Clay. This exhibition began in the '70s as an annual reflection of the big uptick in interest in ceramics at that time. It is now a biennial event, and although it's one of the most important ceramics shows on the calendar, it's not an invitational, as it should be, but a juried show. Because this year's celebrity juror is ceramic sculptor Adrian Arleo of Montana, sculpture predominates at the expense of the vessel tradition, which is virtually missing in action (though a number of the sculptures are vessel-based). Plus, many of the included artists specialize in difficult, if not disturbing, imagery, just like Arleo. In other words, her style is a guide to Colorado Clay, and that's hardly an ideal way to put together a ceramics survey of the state. The artists Arleo chose are Robin Furuta, Pete Wysong, Katie Caron, Scarlett Kanistanaux, Paul Morris, Nancy Utterback, Jonathan Kaplan, Marie E.v.B. Gibbons, Carrie Doman, Eve Partridge, Chandler Romeo, Valerie and Jonathan Nicklow and Caroline Douglas. Through May 1 at Foothills Art Center, 809 15th Street, Golden, 303-279-3922, www.foothillsartcenter.org. Reviewed April 22.
Looking for the Face.... The half-dozen shows at MCA Denver are collectively titled Looking for the Face I Had Before the World Was Made. Adam Lerner, the museum's director, acted as lead curator for the exhibits with new hire Nora Burnett Abrams acting as his assistant. Michaël Borremans is a solo dominated by contemporary realist paintings. The diminutive paintings have a decidedly Old Master-ish character. Less compelling is Samuel Beckett, a spoken monologue on DVD from the author's "Not I" taken from "Beckett on Film," by Neil Jordan. Lorraine O'Grady: Miscegenated Family Album comprises 16 diptychs of found images in which O'Grady put together shots from her family album with images of an ancient Egyptian artifact. William Stockman is dedicated to some recent monumental drawings by the well-recognized local artist. The oddest show here, A. G. Rizzoli, is made up of meticulously done drawings depicting hypothetical buildings, and the last of the group is Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 10,483,200 Minutes, which records a series of pseudo-collaborations. Through May 23 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org. Reviewed March 18.
La Malagua. Maruca Salazar, the still new-ish director of the Museo de las Américas, was born in Mexico but has been a part of the Colorado art scene for decades. For her first show at the institution, Salazar has sampled the work of a group of artists from Puerto Vallarta called El Colectivo Malagua — the jellyfish collective — who have made works riffing off the iconography of the Lotería game. Lotería, which is played throughout Mexico, is similar to bingo, but cards — the appearance of which are reminiscent of tarot cards — are used instead of numbered balls. The 54 cards are drawn, and their names are called out. Players then mark the corresponding spots on their boards with a rock or bean. El Colectivo Malagua is made up of artists Yesika Felix, Sergio Martinez, Fernando Sanchez, Miguel Perez and Ireri Topete, who have created their own versions of the cards and added one: a jellyfish. Salazar has supplemented the effort with the work of two Colorado artists, Carlos Frésquez and Belen Escalante, who also created their own works in response to the Lotería. Through June 6 at the Museo de las Américas, 861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401, www.museo.org.
Ray Tomasso. The Byers-Evans House Gallery — in the carriage house — is hosting New Works in Paper: Ray Tomasso, a solo comprised of recent work by this well-known Colorado artist. The space is not ideal for exhibiting art, but Tomasso and his wife, Diane, have done a good job of making the most of it. As indicated in the title, Tomasso's medium of choice is paper, but these aren't works on paper; rather, the pieces are made out of paper. Following an elaborate process that begins with cotton rags reduced to pulp, Tomasso casts layers of wet sheets that result in abstract bas-relief panels that look like hybrids of paintings and sculptures. His technique in paper-making was self-taught, though he was trained in the related fields of ceramics and printmaking. Unlike many artists who work with paper, Tomasso does not start with colored pulp; instead, he uses un-dyed pulp that he then paints and seals. The results are very engaging because of the topography of the various forms and the handling of the colors. Most of the works are purely abstract, while others contain hints of the Western landscape. Through May 30 at the Byers-Evans House Gallery, 1310 Bannock Street, 303-620-4933, www.coloradohistory.org.
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 September 19 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-866-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org.
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