Catalyst. The beautiful grounds of the Denver Botanic Gardens are the ideal place to mount an outdoor sculpture show, and over the past few years, there has been one such presentation after another. This year, the theme is contemporary sculptors in Colorado. The pieces are picturesquely sited throughout in clearings or along the walkways, but since the place is a labyrinth of trails, make sure to get a map to guide you through. Lisa Eldred, DBG director of exhibitions, ably selected some of the top names in the field, but as she's pointed out, the show is hardly encyclopedic; still, she did attempt to include some of the most famous practitioners in the medium, notably James Surls, Linda Fleming and Robert Mangold. Other Colorado sculpture stars in the show are Emmett Culligan, Kim Dickey, Nancy Lovendahl, Terry Maker, Andy Miller, Patrick Marold, Pard Morrison, Carl Reed and Yoshitomo Saito. The work of Saito, based on twigs cast in bronze, seems perfect in this sylvan setting, and the DBG ought to acquire one for its permanent collection. Through January 12 at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, 720-865-3200, botanicgardens.org. David Mazza. It was only last summer that Randy Roberts, director of Z Art Department, shifted gears: Although he initially showcased the work of historic artists — that is, dead ones — Roberts has increasingly turned to contemporary artists who are still alive and kicking. Demonstrating this new direction is David Mazza: Balancing Act, which features the work of a thirty-something sculptor who's made a name for himself over the past ten years — exhibiting his earliest work before he even finished art school. This show is a small survey of pieces that follow his career development over the years. There are his early works, which comprise clusters of metal rods and bars that cantilever off a central axis. There are later works, featuring interlocking triangular forms (and some drawings to match). And there are his most recent pieces, which are monolithic shapes that arc and twist. Mazza uses a limited set of forms that reflect the influence of classic modernists like Brancusi and di Suvero, making his work neo-modern. Despite their formal simplicity, the types are varied, and they're finished in an array of colors and patinas. Through July 13 at Z Art Department, 1136 Speer Boulevard, 303-298-8432, zartdept.com.
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Pattern Play. Pattern Play: The Contemporary Designs of Jacqueline Groag, at the Denver Art Museum, is one of many shows that make up Spun, a museum-wide event that's anchored by fabrics and other materials. The pieces on view were selected by Darrin Alfred, curator of the architecture, design and graphics department, and were mostly taken from the vast collection of modernist textiles assembled by Jill Wiltse and Kirk Brown. Born in Czechoslovakia, Groag went to Vienna to study with Josef Hoffman, then to Paris, where she designed fabrics for Chanel, among others. With her husband, Jacques Groag, she moved to England on the eve of World War II. It was in post-war Britain that she emerged as a major player in pattern design. This show includes many examples of her fabrics — in the form of beautifully preserved swatches — as well as drawings and sketches that were done in preparation for the finished products. There are also designs for other materials like laminate tabletops. Through September 8 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org.
Phyllis Hutchinson Montrose. Kirkland Museum director Hugh Grant has made rediscovering historic Colorado artists something of a specialty, and has featured several once-famous artists who had previously been forgotten, including Al Wynne, William Sanderson and Frank Vavra. But for In Thin Air: The Art of Phyllis Hutchinson Montrose, Grant has tapped an artist with a nearly sixty--year career who was little known before this show. Part of the reason for this anonymity is that Montrose was associated with the long-gone and almost completely undocumented art scene in Central City, where she was a protégée of regular visitor and art celebrity Julio de Diego and of the town's acknowledged master, Angelo di Benedetto. Montrose began working in the 1950s in representational surrealism, and in this, she was behind the times, as her style recalled pre-war art. But in a strange twist, the reappearance of surrealism in the '80s suddenly brought her oeuvre up to date. The show follows her work from the '40s through the 2000s. Through July 14 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1311 Pearl Street, 303-832-8576, kirklandmuseum.org. Reviewed May 30.
Roland Bernier et al. Conceptual artist and octogenarian Roland Bernier is the subject of a solo at Walker Fine Art that's alternately titled Last Picture Show and What's in a Name. The exhibit, displayed in the right half of the space, is made up of sculptures and wall-relief panels that include the artist's name, Bernier, as their chief motif. For the sculptures, Bernier has covered high-heeled shoes with an all-over pattern made from cut-up prints of his name. The shoes are mounted on wedges that have likewise been covered with the cut-up prints. The wall pieces, in the form of rectangular plaques, are anchored by the artist's name, which has been carried out in cursive and executed in laser-cut plastic mirrors. (If you go, be sure to ask to see the ad-hoc retrospective installed in a vacant shop down the block.) In the other half of the gallery, director Bobbi Walker has brought together abstract paintings by Ben Strawn and abstract sculptures by Norman Epp. Both artists refer to abstract expressionism, Strawn through lyrical compositions done in toned-up colors, and Epp through the natural shape of wooden logs. Through July 12 at Walker Fine Art, 300 West 11th Avenue, #A, 303-355-8955, walkerfineart.com. Reviewed July 4.
Sloan, Sloan and Swab. The William Havu Gallery is currently host to three solos, each highlighting a painter doing some variation of hyper-realism. In the entry space and the space immediately to the right is Jeanette Pasin Sloan, featuring the Santa Fe artist's still-life scenes in various mediums including oil, gouache and watercolor. Sloan likes to render objects with reflective surfaces that pick up the patterns of the cloths on which they've been placed. There's an interesting series of prints that lay out her methods. In the window space and under the mezzanine is Kevin Sloan, made up of enigmatic narrative paintings that recall the art of the nineteenth century — in particular, that of John James Audubon — except for the surrealist touches, like the orange extension cords wrapped around some of the birds, or the pocket watches held by some of the animals. Upstairs on the mezzanine is Laurel Swab, which comprises a selection of diminutive still-life scenes with dark grounds and subjects that display photographic accuracy in their every detail. Through August 10 at William Havu Gallery, 1040 Cherokee Street, 303-893-2360, williamhavugallery.com.