Angela Larson and Michaele Keyes. The front space at Spark is usually subdivided into two rooms, but for the current pairing, the walls have been pushed back, and the combined area functions as a single gallery. Still, the two shows on display, Angela Larson: Vanishing and Michaele Keyes: Pursuing Motion, are so distinct that they each retain their individual autonomy. Vanishing is made up of a series of panels with geometric compositions that incorporate script. The writing, in English and Arabic, includes passages by Rumi, a medieval Persian poet. The paintings look like ceramic tiles but are actually wooden panels coated in encaustic and sometimes in plaster. The compositions preferred by Keyes in Pursuing Motion are complex, with her monotypes having strong palettes. Keyes, who turned from painting to printmaking over a decade ago, wants to convey motion with these pieces, and some of her compositions do seem to be on the verge of twirling. Through September 25 at Spark Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200, www.sparkgallery.com. Reviewed September 8.
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Design for the Other 90%. This traveling exhibit from the Cooper-Hewitt in New York — the national design museum of the Smithsonian Institution — is being presented at RedLine, which is strange, as it relates more to technology than to art. Not only that, but it's way too small for Redline, and it leaves too much floor space. The underlying concept of the exhibit is that nearly all design is made for the developed world, which is a distinct minority of the human population — hence the 90% reference. The relevant people live in the underdeveloped world in Africa, Asia, Latin America and even poor parts of rich countries, like New Orleans after Katrina. Cooper-Hewitt curator Cynthia Smith and others selected the pieces, and they clearly had their hearts in the right place. But their eyes were apparently shut, since most of the pieces are only about function, leaving beauty out of the equation. There are some objects that achieve both, but most do not. Through September 25 at Redline, 2350 Arapahoe Street, 303-296-4448, http://redlineart.org. Reviewed August 18.
Marvelous Mud. This homegrown blockbuster is not a single show but rather eight different ones, all about clay. In the Ponti tower are Potters of Precision: The Coors Porcelain Company; Nampeyo: Excellence by Name; Mud to Masterpiece: Mexican Colonial Ceramics; Blue and White: A Ceramic Journey; and Dirty Pictures, made up of photos that include all kinds of soils. Over in the Hamilton, there's Marajó: Ancient Ceramics at the Mouth of the Amazon; Overthrown: Clay Without Limits; and Focus: Earth & Fire. Through September 18 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org. Reviewed July 21.
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.
Virginia Maitland. At the intimate Sandra Phillips Gallery, Virginia Maitland: Conversations in Color is dedicated to the paintings of this well-known Colorado abstractionist. Maitland came of age in the '70s and is best known for her color-field works in which thin veils of color collide on her canvases. The exhibit's subtitle is apt, since Maitland's great strength is as a colorist and her paintings seem to always comprise large areas of toned-up shades that have been expertly combined into pleasing arrays. The show includes two paintings from the '70s, but everything else was done in the last year or so. Strangely, the earlier works are not characteristic of her approach, and instead of the stained canvases of her classic period, these unusual pieces have been heavily painted and are densely composed, with labyrinthine bars like circuit boards. As interesting as these older works are, the real attraction is the quartet of recently done color-field compositions. Through September 24 at Sandra Phillips Gallery, 744 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-5969, www.thesandraphillipsgallery.com. Reviewed September 1.