A Ceramic Collaboration. To celebrate the fourth anniversary of his Plinth Gallery, which is specifically dedicated to contemporary ceramics, Jonathan Kaplan has mounted a show that highlights the clay scene in Colorado. Conceptually, the show has two parts, but it's been installed as a single idea. The first part is a salute to the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass and includes the work of many artists who were fellows and faculty at the facility — notably, one of its founders, the late Paul Soldner, as well as its current director, Doug Casebeer. The other part of the show highlights the work of ceramic artists who aren't part of the Anderson Ranch scene. Kaplan put out a call for submissions to any Colorado ceramicist or potter and was overwhelmed when more than one hundred responded. He clearly attempted to be inclusive in his selections, and as a result, the works range from small slip-casts of ready-mades on one extreme to large, heavily worked hand-built or hand-thrown pieces on the other. Though it fills only two small spaces, this is clearly a major show. Through July 30 at Plinth Gallery, 3520 Brighton Boulevard, 303-295-0717, http://plinthgallery.com.
John Ferguson and Lisa Kowalski. There's a good-looking pair of solos showcasing Colorado artists at Ironton: New Sculpture by John Ferguson and New Paintings by Lisa Kowalski. The Ferguson part begins in Ironton's charming yard and garden with a trio of his sculptures. Two have vague figural references, particularly in their uprightness and their human size and scale. Ferguson's method is to create an armature and then cover it with metal sheets. Inside the gallery proper are more Fergusons, and in some of these, the armatures become more visible as parts of the surfaces. On the walls are some great neo-abstract-expressionist paintings by Kowalski. Though she is little known in Denver, where she lives, Kowalski has exhibited nationally and, considering the high quality of these paintings, will hopefully do so around here as well. In these paintings, she experiments with different types of compositions; some feature all-over scribbles, while others combine color fields with slashing brushstrokes. A few even include lines and grids. Somehow they all work together seamlessly. Through June 25 at Ironton Gallery, 3636 Chestnut Place, www.irontonstudios.com.
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Margaret Neumann. Earlier this year, Robin Rule made the surprise announcement that she was relocating her swank-looking Broadway gallery to a much smaller space, next to Ice Cube in the RiNo neighborhood. A couple of weeks ago, she opened the doors on this latest iteration of Rule Gallery with Margaret Neumann: As I Once Knew It..., made up of paintings and drawings by the ultra-idiosyncratic artist. Neumann's signature style can be characterized by the sense of discomfort her works convey. Her figures are awkwardly posed and clearly out of balance from a compositional standpoint. And the paint has been both methodically and clumsily applied. Her palette of blacks and reds also contributes to the uneasiness and edginess of the pictures. To complete this anti-aesthetic program, the subjects Neumann depicts are disturbing in themselves, like the man with the bleeding head wound. Through June 24 at Rule Gallery, 3340 Walnut Street, 303-777-9473, www.rulegallery.com. Reviewed May 19.
What Is Modern? Department of Architecture, Design and Graphics curator Darrin Alfred has put together this large show dedicated to furniture and decor from the early nineteenth to the early 21st century. Alfred has included groundbreaking tables, storage units, lighting and — no surprise here, considering Alfred's specialty — graphics. Laudably, Alfred takes a chronological look at how technological advancements informed the development of modernism, starting with a bentwood chair from 1808 by Samuel Gragg. Its overall form is very sleek, with a gracefully curving back, but the details are very different, being almost precious, like the little hooves that mark the termination of the legs. One of the newest pieces in the show is "Roadrunner," a chair from 2006 by Colorado's own David Larabee and Dexter Thornton working together as DoubleButter. Made of a cheap synthetic, the chair is nonetheless elegant. In between the two chairs, Alfred has installed a wide assortment of classics from the annals of modernism. Through November 30 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed December 23.