Colorado Art Survey. Over the years, Kirkland Museum director Hugh Grant has relentlessly sought out and acquired new things for the institution's permanent collection. In the current exhibit, Colorado Art Survey, he shows off some of these conquests and brings other things out of storage. There are some rarely seen paintings by the museum's namesake, Vance Kirkland, including unusual images such as the one capturing the nudist colony that was once near Red Rocks; another shows an owl. There are also historic and contemporary pieces by fellow Colorado artists Elisabeth Spalding, James Duard Marshall, Charles Bunnell, Barbara Locketz, Dale Chisman, Ania Gola-Kumor, Amy Metier and Robert Delaney. Finally, there are some remarkable pieces of decorative art, notably an out-of-this-world "Arabesque" chair in outrageous original fabric by Folke Jansson. Grant has also taken some objects in as loans from collectors, the most significant of which is a 1903 Van Briggle lamp, complete with its pierced-metal shade. Through August 22 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576, www.kirklandmuseum.org.
Energy Effects. MCA Denver director Adam Lerner and architect Paul Andersen have put together one of the most important of the many Biennial shows on display now. The exhibit, with the epic title of Energy Effects: Art and Artifacts From the Landscape of Glorious Excess, begins outside the building, where Gonzalo Lebrija's sculpture from his "Between Life and Death" series has been installed. The sculpture depicts a car set vertically over a reflecting puddle, and the artist has used an actual car and puddle to do it. This is one of the coolest sculptures in town, and it's an index to the show because, as suggested by its title, the exhibit explores how energy is expended, and not how it's conserved. Once inside, you'll notice two interventions in the atrium, one of which, Ciro Najle's "cumulus," hangs from the ceiling, and the other, Orly Genger's "Reg," inappropriately blocks our path. Both pair nature with science, the two poles of the show; pieces by Viviane Le Courtois, Martha Russo and Janine Gordon refer to nature, while works by Don Stinson, Willard Wigan and Jim Sanborn salute science. Through September 13 at MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany Street, 303-298-7554, www.mcadenver.org. Reviewed July 15.
Herbert Bayer. There's no argument that Herbert Bayer, who lived in Aspen for decades, is the most important artist in Colorado history. He was internationally famous when he moved here, having been associated with the Bauhaus in Germany before World War II. And in line with the philosophy promoted by that utopian school, he embraced a wide range of artistic mediums, including graphic design, architecture, painting, printmaking and textiles; he also invented earth art. This exhibit includes paintings and works on paper, but it is Bayer's sensational tapestries that dominate the show because of their size, their graphic boldness and their strong colors. In truth, everything else recedes into the background in deference to them. The tapestries, done in the 1960s and '70s, reveal that Bayer wasn't just a master of the simple yet visually rich composition; he was also king of color. Extended through July 31 at Z Art Department, 1136 Speer Boulevard, 303-623-8432.
Linda Fleming and Katy Stone. The current pair of shows at Robischon delve into the field of conceptual abstraction with two artists who create three-dimensional objects, not all of which could be called sculptures. Up front is Linda Fleming: Lingering, made up of some recent works by this part-time Colorado artist. In the center spaces is Katy Stone: New Work, highlighting ephemeral pleasures from the noted Seattle artist. Fleming is part of the history of contemporary art, having built her studio in the Libre artist collective way back in 1968. The pieces in Lingering, though mostly made of steel, are almost insubstantial owing to all the piercing Fleming has done to the forms. These openings allow negative space to play as important a role as the positive space of the materials themselves. As unusual as the Flemings are, Robischon has found the perfect companion for them in Stone's conceptually related work. The artist is technically making sculptures, but she organizes the mass of material she uses — often clear plastic — in such a way that they look like paintings. Extened through August 7 at Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788, www.robischongallery.com. Reviewed June 3.
The Nature of Things. The official exhibit of the Biennial of the Americas is ensconced in the gutted and lightly facelifted McNicols Building in Civic Center Park. The exhibit was curated by Paola Santoscoy, a native of Mexico City who's fresh out of graduate school at the California College of Art. The show begins outside, with a functional installation by Jerónimo Hagerman maade up of hot-pink banners shading the building's forecourt, which he has furnished with outdoor chairs made of black iron and lime-green cords. Inside is a compelling white assemblage by cypher13 that's composed of constructivist forms based on the shapes of the countries of the Western hemisphere. Among the most interesting things is Gabriel Acevedo Velarde's "Hijos de la Nada," which creatively documents in video a Peruvian case where teenagers defaced pre-Columbian ruins and then posted their exploits on YouTube. Though the show is dominated by international artists, appropriately, two from Colorado are included: Joseph Shaeffer and Clark Richert. It's well worth seeing. Through July 31 at the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue, www.biennialoftheamericas.org. Reviewed July 15.
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