Exposure. Eric Paddock is the Denver Art Museum's first full-fledged photo curator to head up his own new department. To unveil the permanent gallery for photography in the Ponti tower, he's put together Exposure: Photos From the Vault, highlighting a range of gems from the DAM's collection. Collected in fits and spurts, the museum's photo holdings are very uneven, but as Paddock proves with this show, there are a lot of masterworks in it anyway. As could be expected, considering the impressive Wolf Collection of early Western landscapes, there are quite a few pieces by the pioneers of that field, notably Carleton Watkins. And there are a number of well-known photos by famous modern photographers like Diane Arbus, Ansel Adams and Garry Winogrand. Another important feature of the exhibit is the inclusion of many Colorado photographers, including Kevin O'Connell and Wes Kennedy. This aspect is not unexpected coming from a curator who spent most of his career at the Colorado Historical Society. Through October 31, at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000. www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed May 20.
The Furniture of Eero Saarinen. One of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art's specialties is decor. That focus is highlighted in The Furniture of Eero Saarinen: Designs for Everyday Living, a traveling exhibition dedicated to the work of the famous American architect. Though the show was put together by the Knoll Museum, Kirkland director Hugh Grant has supplemented it with pieces from his collection and from the architect's daughter, Susan Saarinen, a landscape designer who lives in our area. The elder Saarinen is best known for his Gateway Arch in St. Louis, but he also designed chairs and tables that have become classics of American furniture. His most radical concept is illustrated in the "Tulip" furniture that counteracted "the slum of legs" that he believed plagued the typical interior. In these works, tables and chairs, are on singular bases that resemble wine glass stems writ large. In addition to Saarinen's own designs, Grant has added works by others from the same era. Through November 28 at the Kirkland Museum, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576, www.kirklandmuseum.org.
Laura Merage. This season opener at the Singer Gallery of the Mizel Center for Arts & Culture examines the photographic work of Laura Merage, who is better known as an arts advocate and donor than as an artist. The show, Laura Merage: Look at Yourself, was curated by gallery director Simon Zalkind, so it's a first-rate effort. Though the work spans three decades, it is not a retrospective, because Zalkind zeroed in on certain kinds of work — self-portraits and travel pictures — and left out other types. And he didn't install the show in chronological order, but by certain themes. The self-portraits, most in silver prints, are remarkable, with many being super-close-ups of Merage's face, which can be unsettling. In some, she's wearing prominent makeup; in one, she's got plastic wrap on her face, and in another, she's sporting a Mohawk. In none of these is Merage interested in conveying her own vanity, and she can hardly be said to be making the most of her appearance. The travel pictures have both a street-photography vibe and Jewish content. Through October 17 at the Mizel Arts & Culture Center, 320 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6330, www.maccjcc.org. Reviewed September 23.
Moore in the Gardens. Henry Moore, who died in 1986, was Great Britain's most important modern sculptor. Born in 1898, he began to create artwork shortly after World War I, becoming internationally famous by the 1930s. Moore was one of a legion of important artists who responded to Picasso's surrealism, but he made the style his own. This traveling exhibit, sponsored by the Henry Moore Foundation, has been installed on the grounds of the Denver Botanic Gardens, with two pieces at the DBG annex at Chatfield (8500 Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton). The main part of the exhibit begins in the Boettcher Memorial Center, where a collection of the artist's tools and maquettes are crowded into showcases, and where a single work has been installed in a fountain. Most of the other pieces have been displayed around the gardens. The monumental works, typically in bronze, look absolutely perfect in the landscaped settings. Through January 31 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, 720-865-3500, www.botanicgardens.org. Reviewed June 17.
Shadow & Smoke. The poetic title of this duet doesn't apply directly to the show, and I don't think we're meant to see either painter Don Quade or sculptor James Dixon doing work that conjures up one or the other idea. Quade continues his interest in moody, earth-toned abstractions, but while he still uses a desert palette of dusty tones plus black, these new paintings look less consciously Hispanic than his earlier work. Dixon has gone all out with his latest pieces, especially the monumental "Lea" and the equally grand "Turandot." The two large pieces are made out of twisted metal coat hangers in a technique that the artist refers to as "hand-stitched iron." Because of the way that gallery director Bobbi Walker has installed the show, Dixon's "Turandot" is in the back, thus bringing in the two artists — Ben Strawn and John Harris — displayed there. However, their work is not part of Shadow & Smoke. The Strawns are in a retro ab-ex style showing off his on-target sense for color and composition while the Harris water paintings are clearly accomplished. Through October 23 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955, www.walkerfineart.com.
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